Making a debut in Acapulco in February 2005, an 18-year-old Rafael Nadal won the title without losing a set, creating a perfect overture for what was about to come in the rest of the season that saw him winning the first Major and Masters 1000 crowns.
Fifteen years later, one of the greatest players of all time will play for the third crown in Acapulco, becoming the last champion on clay in 2013 and suffering the loss in the final to Sam Querrey three years ago. On Saturday night, Rafa will face another American in the clash for the trophy, with the 22-year-old Taylor Fritz overcoming a set and a break deficit in the semis against a compatriot John Isner to find himself in the fifth ATP final, seeking the second ATP title.
After the quarter-final loss to Dominic Thiem at the Australian Open, Nadal traveled to Dubai and South Africa, promoting the sport outside the official tournaments and heading back home to Mallorca for preparations ahead of Acapulco trip.
World no. 2 has played well this week, defeating Pablo Andujar, Miomir Kecmanovic, Soonwoo Kwon and Grigor Dimitrov for 19 wins from 21 encounters at this event, hoping to claim the 85th title overall and the first since the US Open last September.
The Spaniard lost serve six times so far in four matches, controlling the pace on the return to erase that deficit and set the title clash without losing a set, standing as the favorite against the youngster in their first meeting on the Tour.
Following the semi-final victory over Grigor Dimitrov, Rafa expressed his excitement about competing in another Acapulco final, trying to find the necessary form and momentum ahead of the first Masters 1000 event of the season in Indian Wells.
"It is very important for me to compete in another Acapulco final, especially as it comes after a long break and that quarter-final loss at the Australian Open. In the next couple of weeks, the first 1000 Masters of the season arrive and I need to find a competitive pace. The final here will give me boost not only Taylor Fritz's clash but for the following weeks as well."