Andrey Rublev and Stefanos Tsitsipas have been the players to beat this season alongside the Australian Open winner Novak Djokovic. The ATP Race leaders and the Monte Carlo Masters finalists have made a great start in Barcelona, passing the second round and sending a message to the top seed and favorite Rafael Nadal.
Following his first Masters 1000 title in Monte Carlo, Stefanos Tsitsipas will compete in the last 16 in Barcelona thanks to a commanding 6-0, 6-2 triumph over Jaume Munar in an hour and 18 minutes. The Spaniard won the opening two sets against the Greek at the last year's Roland Garros before falling in five sets after an epic battle, unable to produce a similar level today and challenge an in-form opponent.
Stefanos lost 11 points in seven service games and fended off all three break chances to keep the pressure on the other side of the net, something Munar couldn't endure. The Greek controlled the pace with 29 winners and 13 unforced mistakes, leaving the opponent far behind and taking almost 60% of the return points for five breaks that carried him home.
Stefanos blasted a forehand down the line winner in the second game to earn the first break and secured another at 3-0 to move further ahead. World no. 5 landed a forehand winner in the fifth game and closed the set a few minutes later for a bagel.
Raising his level, Munar started to play better in set number two, wasting his opportunities on the return in games three and five before Stefanos converted the fifth break chance at 3-2 with a forehand winner that sent him ahead.
The Greek moved over the top with a backhand crosscourt winner at 5-2, making an impressive start and hoping for more in the rest of the event. Andrey Rublev had to work harder against Federico Gaio, beating the Italian 6-4, 6-3 in an hour and 24 minutes.
Andrey saved six out of seven break chances and earned three breaks that pushed him over the top. The Russian wasn't happy about his game at some points, but it all ended up nicely for him, finishing the job in under an hour and a half to preserve energy.
Rublev survived break chances at 4-4 in the opener and closed the set with a break in the next game. Gaio had an early lead in set number two before world no. 7 stepped in and brought the match home with a double break.