The top ATP Tour players descend on the Real Club de Tenis Barcelona-1899 in Barcelona, Spain, for one of the season's critical clay-court events, the 2014 Barcelona Open BancSabadell.
With the French Open on the horizon, the Spaniards have historically dominated the festivities in Barcelona, winning every tournament there since 2003—with eight of those victories belonging to Rafael Nadal.
But things have a slightly different feel this time around, as Nadal enters his home soil after a straight-sets loss to David Ferrer—also in attendance in Barcelona—in the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, another tournament he has historically dominated. It marked the first time he had not reached the final since he was 16 years old.
Nadal himself began practicing on the familiar courts upon arrival and told the media the tournament is his chance to get things back on track:
I just have to keep working to try to find the solutions in Barcelona. I am going to try and play well there and fight for the matches. After what happened in Australia it was a little bit harder for me to find again the intensity, the confidence, the inside power that always I have.
Conventional wisdom says Nadal and Ferrer are set for another climatic battle in the final, especially considering Nadal has bested his rival there in four of the last six iterations. But Ferrer's draw is a minefield of potential losses thanks to players in strong form such as Alexandr Dolgopolov and Kei Nishikori.
While the field is not as stacked as the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters and is littered with 14 Spaniards in a home environment, the event in Barcelona is yet again one fans around the globe should not miss as the ripple effect on bigger tournaments that rest on the horizon has been obvious for years.