The 11-time Barcelona Open champion Rafael Nadal will play in the 12th final at one of his favorite events, beating Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3, 6-2 in an hour and 28 minutes. It was Nadal's 65th victory in Barcelona from 69 matches, looking good on the court and setting the clash against Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Rafa lost serve once and grabbed four breaks to control the scoreboard and advance into the first ATP final of the season. Carreno Busta served at 96% in the opening set, but it wasn't enough to keep him safe, with Nadal stealing the rival's serve twice and suffering one break for 6-3.
The 11-time champion landed an ace in the first game to get his name on the scoreboard and forced Pablo's forehand error in the next one to grab an early break and build the advantage. Carreno Busta missed another forehand in game three, sending Rafa 3-0 up and having to raise his level if he wanted to avoid a massive defeat.
He placed a backhand crosscourt winner in game four to avoid a bagel before Nadal fired a service winner for a hold at love and a 4-1 advantage. Rafa secured another break in game six to move closer to the finish line before playing a loose service game and hand a break to Carreno Busta that kept him in the opener.
Rafael Nadal ousted Pablo Carreno Busta in the Barcelona Open semi-final.
The younger Spaniard reduced the deficit to 3-5 in game eight with an ace and created three break chances in the next one that could have turned the scoreboard around completely.
Staying focused despite an evident struggle in those moments, Rafa saved them all and closed the set on his second opportunity when Pablo sprayed a backhand mistake. Carried by this momentum, Nadal secured a break at the beginning of the second set (Carreno Busta fell at the net) and took four straight points on serve in game two to confirm the advantage and move closer to the finish line.
Pablo wasted game chances to lose serve in the third game when his backhand found the net, drifting further away from a positive result. Nadal held at love with a service winner in game four, taking full control and hoping to cross the finish line a few games later.
Carreno Busta avoided a bagel with an unreturned serve in game five, followed by a commanding hold from Nadal, who closed the sixth game with a forehand drive volley winner that sent him a game away from victory. Pablo painted a backhand down the line winner in game seven to prolong the encounter, and it was all we saw from him, as Rafa held with an ace a few minutes later to seal the deal and advance into the final.