Seeking the first ATP title since Roland Garros in October last year, Rafael Nadal advanced to his 124th ATP final and the 69th on clay in Barcelona. Competing on the court that already carries his name, Rafa defeated Ilya Ivashka, Kei Nishikori, Cameron Norrie and Pablo Carreno Busta to set the title clash against Stefanos Tsitsipas on Sunday.
Thus, Nadal has secured the 18th consecutive season with at least one ATP final, becoming the third player in the Open era to achieve that after Jimmy Connors and Roger Federer and the fourth if we talk about 18 seasons with one final, including Andre Agassi on that list!
The young Spaniard played in his first ATP final in Auckland 2004 at 17, becoming one of the world's best players a year later and never missing at least one ATP title match during the season. Nadal's 12th Barcelona Open final came following a 6-3, 6-2 triumph over a compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta in an hour and 28 minutes.
Rafa got broken once in the first set's closing stages and stole the opponent's serve four times to celebrate the 65th victory from 69 Barcelona matches. 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 second to grab an early break and build the advantage.
Rafael Nadal is the fourth Open era player with one ATP final in 18 different seasons.
Carreno Busta missed another forehand in game three to send Rafa 3-0 up, having to raise his level if he wanted to avoid a massive defeat.
Nadal fired a service winner for a hold at love in game five and stole the opponent's serve a few minutes later to extend the lead. Pablo pulled one break back at 1-5 and held in game eight to reduce the deficit before creating three break chances at 3-5.
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 error. Carried by this momentum, Nadal secured a break at the beginning of the second set 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 suffer another break 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 to control the scoreboard and march towards the finish line.
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. Serving for the victory at 5-2, Rafa held with an ace to seal the deal and advance into the final.