Rafael Nadal and Stefanos Tsitsipas battled in one of the most thrilling best-of-three ATP finals in the last couple of decades in Barcelona last year. The rivals stayed on the court for almost three hours and 40 minutes and pushed each other to the limits before Nadal prevailed 6-4, 6-7, 7-5.
Rafa saved a match point in the decider's tenth game and grabbed the last three games to remain perfect in the Barcelona Open finals and lift the 12th trophy. It was Nadal's first ATP title since Roland Garros 2020, and he had to give his everything to overpower an in-form rival and the Monte Carlo champion.
Tsitsipas barely won a couple of games against Nadal in the Barcelona Open final three years earlier. He had improved his clay-court game by a mile before facing the Spaniard the title match again. Shifting the form from Monte Carlo to Barcelona, the Greek reached the final without losing a set and stood a point away from toppling the king of clay on the court that carries his name.
Stefanos Tsitsipas praised Rafael Nadal after an epic Barcelona Open final.
For Nadal, this title could not come at a better moment, missing two months following that epic failure against Stefanos in Melbourne and suffering an early Monte Carlo exit to Andrey Rublev.
Staying composed while playing against a match point at 4-5 in the decider, Nadal survived that rally and gathered a massive boost to rattle off the last three games and deliver one of the most thrilling victories of his career.
Praising Nadal after the match, Tsitsipas hailed the Spaniard as the real competitor on the court, who hates losing more than any other player on the Tour. Also, Nadal's level pushed Tsitsipas to fight even harder and reach his limits to remain in touch and battle for the title, something he almost achieved after standing one fine shot away from the finish line.
"Rafael Nadal is a real competitor on the court. He hates losing more than anyone else. I have not seen anyone fight like this. He makes my life difficult on the court. I'm there to accept those terms and play based on his desire to resist.
It also makes me a better player, and I can see myself reaching my limits. It's something good to have for my personal development and growth," Stefanos Tsitsipas said.