Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates after defeating Cameron Norrie of Britain 6-1, 6-4 during a quarterfinal Godo tennis tournament in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, April 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Joan Monfort)
- Rafael Nadal is undefeated against his Barcelona semifinal opponent, No. 6 seed Pablo Carreño Busta
- Their eighth career meeting will take place Saturday at 10:00 am EDT
- Can Carreño Busta find something he’s never been able to find before versus Nadal? We break it down
Rafael Nadal always had the friendliest half of the draw in Barcelona this week.
But with a 7-0 career head-to-head record against countryman and semifinal opponent Pablo Carreño Busta, he’s feeling particularly chummy.
Rafael Nadal vs Pablo Carreño Busta Odds
|Player||Spread||Moneyline||Total at DraftKings|
| Rafael Nadal (ESP)||-5.5 (+102)||-590||O 19.5 (-113)|
| Pablo Carreño Busta (ESP)||+5.5 (-129)||+425||U 19.5 (+113)|
Odds as of April 23
Nadal’s favorable odds in this one aren’t in the stratosphere, as they were for previous opponent Cameron Norrie.
But they are still pretty overwhelming, as you would expect.
Make that THIRTEEN semi-finals in Barcelona for @RafaelNadal 🤯#BCNOpenBS pic.twitter.com/1ngcYfD4kQ
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) April 23, 2021
He has been the prohibitive favorite from the get-go, and has enjoyed an easier draw than his young-gun counterparts in the bottom half.
Nadal Gets Extra Practice Time
After a pair of three-set victories, Nadal had a relatively routine win over surprise quarterfinalist Cameron Norrie Friday.
2️⃣ Beats Norrie
3️⃣ Back to training
🐐 THIS IS @RafaelNadal pic.twitter.com/iAT0n0lPKx
— Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell (@bcnopenbs) April 23, 2021
Clearly that wasn’t enough for him on the day.
But that’s the way Nadal rolls. If he’s not feeling it, he practices even more and – nearly always – plays his way into form.
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Meanwhile on Friday, Carreño Busta was down 2-5 in the third set to Diego Schwartzman, who was seeded two spots above him at No. 4.
Schwartzman served for it at 5-3 and was two points away several times. But Carreño Busta broke him. And that seemed to break the usually-positive Argentine’s spirit.
Schwartzman has been struggling this year as he adjusts to a new racquet, after playing with a 2012 model for many years. And when it came to crunch time, he just didn’t trust his new sword.
Saving his best for last! 💪@pablocarreno91 wins the final five games to defeat Schwartzman 6-4 3-6 7-5.
He’ll take on Rafael Nadal in Saturday’s semi-final.#BCNOpenBS pic.twitter.com/GWwDHSNHNY
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) April 23, 2021
Carreño Busta broke him again to lead 6-5. And then served it out at love for the privilege (if that’s the right word) to try to break the shutout against his legendary countryman.
Rafael Nadal vs Pablo Carreño Busta Head-to-Head
|34 (June 3, 1986)||Age||29 (July 12, 1991)|
|Manacor, Mallorca||Birthplace||Gijon, Spain|
|86||Career ATP Singles Titles||5|
|No. 1 (Aug. 18, 2008)||Career High Ranking||No. 10 (Sept. 11, 2017)|
|No. 3||Current Ranking||No. 13|
|$123,898,908||Career Prize Money||$11,234,022|
|9-2||2021 Won/Loss record||13-4|
The Bad News? Nadal Comes in 7-0
It’s not just that Carreño Busta, who is arguably more dangerous on hard courts but very good on the clay, is 0-7 against Nadal.
He has only ever won two sets against him. And he’s never even sniffed a set on the clay.
Is there slight hope this time?
Well, Carreño Busta came into Barcelona having won his fifth career title, on the clay in Marbella two weeks ago.
He’s arguably in better (relative) form than Nadal at the moment even if the best opponent he faced in Marbella was No. 47 Albert Ramos-Viñolas.
And even that went to a third-set tiebreak.
That’s slightly thin soup. There isn’t a lot to pin those hopes on when it comes to this matchup.
Rafael Nadal vs Pablo Carreño Busta Match History
|2020||Paris Masters (QF)||Indoor Hard||4-6, 7-5, 6-1||Nadal|
|2020||Rome (R32)||Clay||6-1, 6-1||Nadal|
|2020||Australian Open (R32)||Outdoor Hard||6-1, 6-2, 6-4||Nadal|
|2017||French Open (QF)||Clay||6-2, 2-0 (retd)||Nadal|
|2016||Rio de Janeiro (R32)||Clay||6-1, 6-4||Nadal|
|2016||Doha (R32)||Outdoor Hard||6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-1||Nadal|
|2015||Rio de Janeiro (R16)||Clay||7-5, 6-3||Nadal|
Flatter Striker Suffers Nadal’s Spin
The biggest challenge Carreño Busta faces is that he’s a flatter hitter of the ball, especially on the backhand.
And with all the work Nadal puts on the ball, it rarely arrives anywhere near Carreño Busta’s preferred hitting zone – especially coming from the Nadal forehand, which in crosscourt rallies goes right to Carreño Busta’s backhand.
So nothing Carreño Busta receives is ever something he can instinctively attack. He’s always scrambling. And it’s not ideal to hit his forehand down the line to try to break up a point, because that goes right to Nadal’s forehand.
Even in early-season clay form Nadal has a good chance, at -5.5, to beat the spread (+102).
Under 18.5 total games (+135) is also within reach.
Best Bet: Nadal in two sets (-186)
While you’re betting the Barcelona Open, be sure to read our guide to Derby betting ahead of next week’s big race!
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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.