Competing in his 12th Barcelona Open final, Rafael Nadal toppled Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 6-7, 7-5 after three hours and 37 minutes after saving a match point in the decider's tenth game! Thus, Nadal has remained undefeated in the title matches at one of his favorite ATP events where the main court carries his name, lifting the 87th ATP title and the first since October and Roland Garros.
It was the longest best-of-three match of the season so far, with two rivals pushing each other to the limits from start to finish. Nadal saved ten out of 12 break chances and produced four breaks to move over the top and score one of his most thrilling victories in the last couple of years.
The opening set lasted for almost an hour, and Nadal battled past five out of six break points and a 4-2 deficit to claim it 6-4 and gain a massive advantage. Tsitsipas had the upper hand in the early stages, doing everything right on both serve and return and keeping Nadal away from the comfort zone.
Still, the Greek lost that pace after a nice hold in game six, allowing the Spaniard to take charge and produce a comeback that led him towards the set. The 11-time champion held in the opening game with a service winner before spraying a forehand mistake in game three to suffer a break at love and fall 2-1 down.
Playing marvelous tennis in those moments, Stefanos held with ease in games four and six and created two break chances at 3-1 that could have sent him further in front. Battling for every point, Nadal saved those and held at 30 in game seven to remain within one break deficit and gain some confidence.
The home favorite opened the court at 3-4 and placed a forehand crosscourt winner to deliver his first break of the match and level the score at 4-4, looking much better than only ten minutes ago. Like many times this week, Rafa lost his focus in the crucial moments and offered three break chances to Stefanos in game nine that could have cost him dearly.
Rafael Nadal had to give his best to beat the young Greek in three sets.
The Spaniard repelled them all and held with a service winner in one of the encounter's pivotal moments. Returning in game ten, Nadal scored a break at 15 when Stefanos sprayed a forehand error, stealing the set and hoping for more of the same in the second.
Like in the opener, Tsitsipas had the upper hand in the early stages, holding comfortably in games two and four and stealing Rafa's serve in game three with a forehand down the line winner. The Spaniard bounced back with a break in game six after forcing the Greek's error and created two match points on the return at 4-5.
Stefanos saved those and leveled the score before earning a massive 40-0 lead in the next game, with an opportunity to move closer to the set. With no room for errors, Nadal saved all three break points and held after forcing the rival's error for 6-5.
Tsitsipas held at 30 in game 12 to introduce a tie break, a must-win-one for him. From 4-2 down, Stefanos won four straight points and opened a 6-4 gap. Nadal saved the first set point with an excellent point at the net and the second with a forehand down the line winner for 6-6.
Out of a sudden, Nadal hit a double fault in the 13th point, and Tsitsipas closed the set with a service winner to force a decider. They stayed neck and neck and held at love in games seven and eight for real drama, already battling for well over three hours.
Serving at 4-5, Nadal made a couple of terrible forehand errors and saved a match point before landing a volley winner to remain in contention and level the score at 5-5. Rafa placed a perfect drop shot winner in game 11 to create break chances, seizing the fourth to move in front after Stefanos' forehand mistake. Serving at 6-5, Nadal saved a break point and brought an epic match home to celebrate the title.