Spain’s Rafael Nadal poses with his trophy after winning the Barcelona Open Tennis Tournament final in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, April 29, 2018. Nadal defeated Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-2, 6-1 in the final. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
- No. 1 seed Rafael Nadal is looking for title No. 12 in Barcelona, his first since 2018
- Defending champion Dominic Thiem (from 2019) and finalist Daniil Medvedev both are absent
- We break down best bets and long shots to win the event, and intriguing first-round clashes
As with any tournament on clay, Rafael Nadal is the prohibitive favorite again this week.
But considering Andrey Rublev has lost in the first round of qualifying in his last three trips to Barcelona, it’s rather surprising that he is the second favorite to win the tournament, right behind 11-time champion Rafael Nadal.
Barcelona Open Odds
|||Rafael Nadal (ESP)||-163|
|||Andrey Rublev (RUS)||+700|
|||Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE)||+800|
|||Diego Schwartzman (ARG)||+1800|
|||Jannik Sinner (ITA)||+2000|
|||Denis Shapovalov (CAN)||+2500|
|||Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP)||+2500|
|||Pablo Carreño Busta (ESP)||+3300|
|||Félix Auger-Aliassime (CAN)||+4000|
|||Karen Khachanov (RUS)||+5000|
|||David Goffin (BEL)||+5000|
|||Cristian Garin (CHI)||+5000|
|||Fabio Fognini (ITA)||+5000|
|[WC]||Lorenzo Musetti (ITA)||+6600|
|[WC]||Carlos Alcaraz (ESP)||+6600|
|[-]||Kei Nishikori (JPN)||+8000|
|||Dan Evans (GBR)||+8000|
Odds as of April 17 from Bet365
Two-time Champion Nishikori a Long Shot
Meanwhile, Kei Nishikori, a two-time champion (and also a finalist in 2016) is at +8000 .
Although obviously he’s not the player he was back in the middle of the last decade.
Two veteran Spaniards, Roberto Bautista Agut and Pablo Carreño Busta, are among the few who have good resumés at this 500-level event.
But Carreño Busta would have to get through Nadal in the quarterfinals. Bautista has a better shot in the bottom half of the draw.
Nadal looking for title No. 12
Rafal Nadal’s serve deserted him in his loss to Andrey Rublev in Monte-Carlo – another tournament he has won 11 times.
As packed as the clay-court season is, he still likely won’t be unhappy to get right back out on the match court and right the Monte-Carlo wrongs.
Nadal has by far the easier half of the draw. No. 4 seed Diego Schwartzman 10-1), No. 6 Carreño Busta (7-0), No. 8 David Goffin (4-0 on clay) are the other top seeds in his half.
2019 Champion and Finalist Both Absent
Dominic Thiem, the 2019 champion, had opted to play Novak Djokovic’s smaller 250-level tournament in Belgrade instead.
And 2019 finalist Daniil Medvedev never entered the tournament.
It was a moot point. Thiem ended up withdrawing from Belgrade. And Mededev’s positive test for coronavirus last week would have taken him out anyway.
Barcelona Open Contenders – Best Previous Results
|Player||Trips to Barcelona||Best Result|
|Rafael Nadal||15||Champion (11X)|
|Andrey Rublev||4||R32 (2015)|
|Stefanos Tsitsipas||2||Final (2019)|
|Diego Schwartzman||2||R32 (2019)|
|Jannik Sinner||First appearance||N/A|
|Roberto Bautista Agut||6||QFs (2X)|
|Pablo Carreño Busta||9||SF (2018)|
|Kei Nishikori||8||Champion (2X)|
Quick Turnaround for Tsitsipas and Rublev
The clay-court season is pretty relentless. And it almost works against some players to go deep in Monte-Carlo.
For champion Stefanos Tsitsipas and runner-up Rublev, it’s a quick turnaround to Barcelona. And they know that they have two more Masters 1000 tournaments in Madrid and Rome, back to back, right after that.
And then, the French Open, which is best-of-five sets.
Peaking too early is a thing. But Tsitsipas said Sunday after winning Monte Carlo that he’s ready to go.
“My body is feeling good, which is a good sign. I’m really pumped to go for some more points in the next couple of weeks.” – Stefanos Tsitsipas
Beyond Nadal, the 2018 finalist is the best bet.
Previous Barcelona Open Winners and Finalists
|2019|| Dominic Thiem|| Daniil Medvedev|
|2018|| Rafael Nadal||Stefanos Tsitsipas|
|2017|| Rafael Nadal|| Dominic Thiem|
|2016|| Rafael Nadal|| Kei Nishikori|
|2015|| Kei Nishikori||Pablo Andujar|
|2014|| Kei Nishikori||Santiago Giraldo|
|2013|| Rafael Nadal|| Nicolas Almagro|
First-Round Matches to Watch
Carlos Alcaraz (-186) vs Frances Tiafoe (+148)
Of Alcaraz, still 17 for a few more weeks, so much is expected.
The teenager didn’t hit the South American clay-court swing earlier this year. Rather, he interspersed three first-round hard-court losses (Montpellier, Acapulco, Miami) with a trip to the Canary Islands for a clay-court Challenger. He lost to No. 248 Marco Trungelliti in the second round there.
But he reached the semis in Marbella two weeks ago, beating Monte-Carlo semifinalist Casper Ruud en route.
Still, this one could be an upset.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (+195) vs Egor Gerasimov (-250)
Tsonga, 36 on Saturday, has played three just tournaments in 2021 and went 1-3. He withdrew from Monte Carlo last week.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: always a man of the people ❤️
Happy birthday, @tsonga7! 🥳 pic.twitter.com/kM84pYPBRB
— US Open Tennis (@usopen) April 17, 2021
The Frenchman has played little in the last two years while Gerasimov, at 28, is playing the best tennis of his career.
Richard Gasquet (-127) vs Jordan Thompson (+104)
Gasquet went all the way to Melbourne, only to pull out of the Australian Open and is 2-3 on the season. He, too, withdrew from Monte-Carlo.
Thompson is 1-0 against him, albeit on grass. But he’s a capable-enough clay-court player.
Best Bet: Rafael Nadal (-163)
Longer shot: Roberto Bautista Agut (+2500)
Stephanie gets the straight dope from the tennis insiders. On court, she has represented her country internationally. A BA in journalism led to years on the MLB beat and a decade covering tennis globally. She’s written for Postmedia, the Guardian, the New York Times and also publishes OpenCourt.ca.