Rafael Nadal to Face Pablo Carreno Busta in His Return to ATP Tour at the Italian Open

Rafael Nadal is heading back to competitive tennis play…

The 34-year-old tennis star will make his return to the ATP Tour against US Open semifinalist Pablo Carreno Busta at the Italian Open in Rome.

Rafael Nadal

In his first appearance since the ATP Tour suspension in March, the nine-time titlist will need to be at the top of his game when he meets his countryman for the sixth time in their head-to-head series (Nadal leads 5-0).

Carreno Busta has made a strong return to the ATP Tour, reaching his second US Open semi-final earlier this week. The Spaniard also lifted his maiden doubles trophy at the Western & Southern Open last month.

Nadal and Carreno Busta most recently met in the third round of this year’s Australian Open, with Nadal winning in straight sets. If he gets past Carreno Busta, he could meet Western & Southern Open finalist Milos Raonic in the third round. Nadal shares the bottom quarter of the draw with eighth seed Diego Schwartzman and US Open quarterfinalist Andrey Rublev.

The five-time year-end World No. 1 enters Rome with a 13-3 record this year. At his most recent event in February, Nadal did not drop a set en route to his 85th tour-level trophy at the Acapulco Open in Mexico.

Chasing his 10th title at the Foro Italico, the Spaniard will look to add to his 61-6 record at the ATP Masters 1000 event. Nadal is currently on a 10-match winning streak in Rome, having won the past two editions of the tournament. The 35-time ATP Masters 1000 winner won three-set battles against Alexander Zverev in the 2018 championship match and Novak Djokovic in last year’s final.

If Nadal triumphs for the third straight year in Rome, he will capture a 10th trophy at a single event for the fourth time in his career. He owns 12 French Open trophies and has won 11 crowns at both the Monte Carlo Masters and the Barcelona OpenRoger Federer is the only other player to have reached double digits at a single ATP Tour event in the Open Era. He owns 10 trophies at the Noventi Open in Halle and the Swiss Indoors Basel.

Rafael Nadal Returns to No. 1 in the ATP World Rankings

Rafael Nadal is back on top…

Almost nine years to the day since he first became No. 1, the 31-year-old Spanish tennis star has returned to the top of the ATP rankings for his fourth stint at the pinnacle.

Rafael Nadal

Nadal, who had previously spent 141 total weeks at No. 1, replaces Andy Murray, who had held the top spot for 41 weeks since November 7, 2016.

Nadal, who first ascended to No. 1 on August 18, 2008 at the age of 22, last held top spot three years and 45 days ago on July 6, 2014.

Nadal will now look to stay ahead of rival Roger Federer and finish atop the year-end ATP rankings for the first time since 2013 and for the fourth time in his career (2008, 2010, 2013).

“Being No. 1 after all the things that I have been going through the last couple of years is something unbelievable, so [it] is, for me, an amazing achievement to be back to that position after [a] few years, three years,” said Nadal.

Nadal has spent three previous stints at No. 1 – 46 weeks between August 18, 2008 and July 5, 2009, 56 weeks from June 7, 2010 to July 3, 2011 and 39 weeks between October 7, 2013 and July 6, 2014.

He holds the record for the longest gap – nine years and three days – between his debut at No. 1 and his return today, which betters the previous mark of Jimmy Connors, who was first No. 1 on July 29, 1974 and last at No. 1 on July 3, 1983 – a gap of eight years and 339 days.

Chris Kermode, ATP Executive Chairman and President, said, “To regain the No. 1 ranking nine years after having first reached it is unprecedented. Rafa has been setting records throughout his remarkable career and this one is as impressive as any. It shows incredible dedication and longevity, and we congratulate him on this amazing achievement.”

Nadal, who ended the 2016 season early due to a wrist injury, has returned in 2017 playing some of the best tennis of his career. In compiling an ATP World Tour-best 49-9 match record, Nadal has captured four trophies this season, including historic 10th titles at Roland Garros (d. Wawrinka), the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters (d. Ramos-Vinolas) and the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell (d. Thiem), in addition to a fifth crown at the Mutua Madrid Open (d. Thiem).

He has also reached three other finals – the Australian Open (l. to Federer), Abierto Mexicano Telcel in Acapulco (l. to Querrey) and the Miami Open presented by Itau (l. to Federer).

On 12 June, Nadal became the first player to qualify for the 2017 season-ending ATP Finals, to be held at The O2 in London from 12-19 November. It is the 13th straight year that he has qualified for the elite eight-player tournament.

Zeballos Defeats Karen Khachanov to Reach Barcelona Open Semifinals

Horacio Zeballos is one win away from a long-awaited return to a tournament final… But, he’ll have to take down the defending champion to get there.

The 32-year-old Argentine tennis player didn’t drop a serve in beating Russia’s Karen Khachanov 6-4, 6-1 at the Barcelona Open to reach the semifinals.

Horacio Zeballos

Zeballos, currently ranked No. 84 in the world, will play defending champion Rafael Nadal.

Zeballos is trying to reach his first ATP final since a memorable title run at the Chile Open four years ago.

Zeballos won his first pro title in February 2013 at that same Viña del Mar tournament. In the final, he beat Nadal, becoming one of the only four players (with Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray) to beat the former world no. 1 in a clay-court final.

Nadal Defeats Kei Nishikori to Claim Barcelona Open Title

Rafael Nadal is back-to-back tournament champion…

The 29-year-old Spanish tennis star beat defending champion Kei Nishikori 6-4, 7-5 to win the Barcelona Open for the ninth time on Sunday, equaling Guillermo Vilas‘ record of 49 career clay-court titles.

Rafael Nadal

Nadal added this title to his trophy from the Monte Carlo Open last week as the 14-time Grand Slam winner regains form on his favorite surface ahead of next month’s French Open.

Nishikori had won the tournament for the last two years after early exits by Nadal.

In an entertaining clash of the two top-seeded players, Nadal proved more decisive under pressure, saving seven of eight break chances in the first set while converting the two chances he got.

The Spaniard then bettered second-seeded Nishikori through several superb rallies in a back-and-forth second set to win key points and claim his 69th career title in his 101st final.

“I was playing against the No. 6 player in the world, and if you don’t play at your best you aren’t going to win,” Nadal said.

“I served well and that allowed me to play better. In the second set I missed several chances, and at the end it was very close, but I stayed mentally strong.”

After losing to Fabio Fognini in the round of 16 last year, Nadal blamed his poor forehand. A year later, all Nadal’s power was back on display, driving forehand strokes past Nishikori when it really mattered.

Playing near their best, both top-10 players never let the other settle in while serving.

Level at 3-3 in the first set, Nishikori had three break points, but Nadal saved them all by winning five straight points.

Nadal earned a second break to claim the first set when the Spaniard won with a shot which clipped the top of the net.

Nishikori immediately responded by rallying from 0-40 down to break Nadal’s first service game of the second set.

Nadal answered with a hard-fought game — which included two superb rallies won by the home favorite at the net — to recover the break.

Nishikori got back in the match after Nadal misjudged a ball that he thought was going wide when he could have smashed it. The ball fell in, and Nishikori broke Nadal with an unreachable drop shot for 4-3.

Nishikori then landed another risky drop shot to save a championship point and make it 5-5, but Nadal claimed victory two games later when the Japanese player sent the ball into the net.

Nadal to Face Kei Nishikori in the Barcelona Open Final

Rafael Nadal is one win away from back-to-back titles…

The 29-year-old Spanish tennis star will face Kei Nishikori in the Barcelona Open final after both past champions won their semifinals in straight sets on Saturday.

Rafael Nadal  

Nadal fought off Germany’s Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 6-3 to return to his first final here since 2013, when he won the tournament a record eighth time.

Last weekend, Nadal defeated Gael Monfils to claim a ninth title at the Monte Carlo Masters.

Nishikori, the two-time defending champion, beat Benoit Paire of France 6-3, 6-2 earlier on the outdoor clay court.

Nadal holds an 8-1 win-loss record against Nishikori, but expects a tough final.

“I will have to play my best,” he said.

The top-seeded Nadal eased past Kohlschreiber, breaking his serve three times and saving the only break chance he conceded to the German. The home favorite sealed the win when Kohlschreiber hit his return long.

Nadal Wins His Fourth Title at the Madrid Open

Rafael Nadal is back in title-winning form…

The 27-year-old Spanish tennis star, currently ranked No. 1 in the world, won his fourth Madrid Open title on Sunday after Japan’s Kei Nishikori was forced to retire their match with an injury when trailing 2-6, 6-4, 3-0 in the men’s final.

Rafael Nadal

Nishikori’s powerful groundstrokes helped him win the first set against the Nadal, who couldn’t find a way to counter his opponent.

Nadal slowly worked his way back into the match and broke Nishikori twice in the second set to even the match.

But Nishikori was in obvious discomfort in the third, even receiving treatment on his lower back during a medical timeout, before calling it quits.

Nadal recovered from two recent quarterfinal round losses on clay to win his second title on the surface this year. He began his clay court season with a quarterfinal loss to David Ferrer in the Monte Carlo Masters. He was also stunned by Nicolas Almagro in the quarterfinals of the Barcelona Open.

Giraldo Upsets Nicolas Almagro to Reach Barcelona Open Final

Santiago Giraldo is one step closer to earning his first career ATP title…

The 26-year-old Colombian professional tennis player, currently ranked No. 65 in the world, beat Spain’s Nicolas Almagro 7-5, 6-3 on Saturday to reach the Barcelona Open final.

Santiago Giraldo

Giraldo will face fourth-seeded Kei Nishikori after the Japanese player beat Ernests Gulbis of Latvia 6-2, 6-4 in the other semifinal on the red outdoor clay.

Almagro slumped to his first loss in six meetings with Giraldo, a day after one of his biggest wins when he upset eight-time winner Rafael Nadal at the Real Club de Tenis.

“Yesterday’s game doesn’t serve as an excuse,” Almagro said. “Giraldo grazed perfection today, above all in the first set, and I couldn’t find the answer.”

The unseeded Giraldo will be playing for his first career title on Sunday after he saved six of seven break points and finished the match with an emphatic ace.

“I have always dreamed of reaching the top spots of the ATP ranking and tomorrow is a first step,” Giraldo said. “But I am staying calm. I will keep to my routine and tomorrow will be a day to enjoy and play the best tennis I can.”

Giraldo prevailed in a match that featured several long rallies by proving more precise with his long groundstrokes.

The first set was heading for a tiebreaker until Giraldo snatched it away by breaking Almagro’s last service game when he swatted a forehand return by the feet of the last year’s finalist.

Almagro got an early break in the second set, but Giraldo won it right back and took control as Almagro’s nerves frayed with the match slipping away.

“He believed more in his tennis, in how he had to play, and he barely made any mistakes,” Almagro said. “I committed errors when I could have gone in front. That was the key.”

Almagro Beats Rafael Nadal for the First Time to Reach Barcelona Open Semifinals

For the first time in his career, Nicolas Almagro has taken down Rafael Nadal

The 28-year-old Spanish professional tennis player beat his compatriot on Friday in a hard-fought, three-set quarterfinal match at the Barcelona Open, ending the World No. 1’s 41-match winning streak at the tournament.

Nicolas Almagro

Nadal was looking for his ninth title in Barcelona but lost a week after going out in the quarterfinals of the Monte Carlo Masters to David Ferrer.

Nadal, widely considered the greatest clay-court player of all time, hadn’t lost in Barcelona since his debut as a 15-year-old in 2003, although he missed the tournament in 2010. He had not dropped a set here since the 2008 final.

Almagro, ranked No. 20 in the world, converted his second match point, smashing a forehand down the line for his first career victory over Nadal on the 11th try.

“I had a lot of opportunities in the second set,” Nadal said. “I didn’t take advantage of break points, so credit goes to him.”

After failing to convert any of his five break points in the second set, Nadal missed a return in the tiebreaker to give Almagro a 6-5 lead. Almagro followed up with a crosscourt forehand winner to level the match and end Nadal’s streak of 44 straight sets at the tournament.

Both players were steady on serve until an exchange of breaks made it 4-4 in the third, and Nadal then sent a shot long to be broken again and give Almagro a chance to serve for the match.

Nadal set up two straight chances to break back, but hit a forehand long and then sent a smash into the net with Almagro out of position.

Nadal then saved the first match point when Almagro’s backhand flew wide. But Almagro used a serve-and-volley to save a third break point of the game before Nadal’s long return set up the second match point.

“This is an important win for my career,” said Almagro, who celebrated wildly. Almagro will face Colombia’s Santiago Giraldo in Saturday’s semifinals after Philipp Kohlschreiber retired with an injury while trailing 6-4, 4-3.

Ramos Upsets Nikolay Davydenko at the Barcelona Open

It’s home field advantage for Albert Ramos

The 26-year-old Spanish professional tennis player upset Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko 6-4, 6-4 in the first round of the Barcelona Open to set up a meeting against top-ranked Rafael Nadal.

Albert Ramos

Ramos will play the defending champion and eight-time winner during Wednesday’s second-round match.

Nadal was knocked out of the quarterfinals of the preceding Monte Carlo Masters — his earliest exit from the clay-court tournament since 2003.

In second-round play on Tuesday, fourth-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan was a 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 winner over Spain’s Roberto Bautista.

No. 16 Benoit Paire of France was the only seeded player to exit, retiring at 6-4, 5-1 down to Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan.

Nadal Defeats Nicolas Almagro for His Eighth Barcelona Open Title

Rafael Nadal continues his winning ways at the Barcelona Open

The 26-year-old Spanish tennis superstar won the tournament for the eighth time on Sunday, beating his fellow countryman Nicolas Almagro 6-4, 6-3 to earn his fourth title of the year.

Rafael Nadal

“I am very happy,” said Nadal. “It has been an important week for me to win here again and a great source of joy after everything I have been through.”

Nadal has made six straight finals since returning from his knee injury. This title, the 54th of his career, comes a week after his eight-year reign at Monte Carlo ended with a loss to top-ranked Novak Djokovic.

“With just these six tournament since I have returned, I have managed to assure my place in the top 10 one more year, which is positive,” said Nadal, who is ranked No. 5. “These months of work have been worth it.”

Even so, Nadal is hesitant to say how this might carry over to Roland Garros, where he has won a record seven times.

Rafael Nadal

“This win doesn’t mean much,” he said. “Just that I am in good form since I have come back. The results are fantastic. I would never have imagined them and they are better than I had dreamed. I am back playing at a high level.”

After trailing 3-0 in the first set, Nadal found his form and broke Almagro in three of his next four service games to take command of the match, which was  played in a drizzle.

Nadal won the Barcelona Open from 2005-09 but did not play in 2010 because of a knee injury. He has won the tournament every year since. He has won 39 straight matches on the red clay at Real Club de Tenis, his last loss coming 10 years ago to Spain’s Davis Cup captain, Alex Corretja.

“I didn’t know in 2005 that I would win again or that in 2013 I would still be winning,” Nadal said.