Rafael Nadal kept alive his bid to win the Barcelona Open for a ninth time in 2014 by defeating countryman Albert Ramos in straight sets in the second round on Wednesday.
ESPN Tennis announced the 7-6(2), 6-4 scoreline:
It wasn't easy, but Nadal records his 40th straight win in Barcelona following a 7-6(2), 6-4 victory over Ramos. #ESPNTennis— ESPNTennis (@ESPNTennis) April 23, 2014
With the win, Nadal improves to 2-0 against Ramos and extends his winning streak in Barcelona to 40 straight matches. Up next, the eight-time Barcelona Open champion and overall top seed will take on Ivan Dodig in the third round on Thursday.
Ramos alluded to the monumental task at hand prior to taking the court on Wednesday, per the Associated Press (via ABCNews.com):
Rafa is a very difficult rival, he's going to play with a lot of intensity as he's coming off a surprise loss, so I'm sure he'll be motivated. It's going to be tough. I need him to have a bad day and myself a great one to beat him.
Despite the fact Nadal was coming off a loss in Monte Carlo and had received a first-round bye as one of the tournament's top 16 seeds, it was all Ramos early on as the 26-year-old was able to find success on Nadal's serve.
Within moments, Ramos, who had won just three games total against Nadal in his defeat in Barcelona in 2013, was sitting on a stunning 3-1 advantage, as pointed out by tennis analyst Brad Gilbert:
wow Ramos up a quick break 3-1 on Rafa last year they played in Barcelona and he got 3 games— Brad Gilbert (@bgtennisnation) April 23, 2014
Sensing that the opening set was slipping away, Nadal turned up the pressure in the fifth game, breaking Ramos right back to jump back on serve. Each would hold serve until 5-5, when Nadal capitalized on a brilliant passing shot to set up his second break point. Nadal cashed in on the opportunity to take a 6-5 lead in the set, but surrendered the break right back in the very next game, setting up a tiebreak.
The "King of Clay" owned the extra session, though, winning five straight points to shut the door on Ramos and take the first frame.
Both players won 65 percent of their first-serve points in set No. 1, but Nadal had a higher success rate on the second serve, winning 55 percent of those points compared to 25 percent for Ramos.
There was little drama in the second set as each player held serve through the first nine games. After pulling ahead 5-4, Nadal received a brief visit from the trainer, as noted by Yahoo Sports correspondent Stephanie Myles:
Trainer/doc just came out and Nadal snuck out a pill. Stretched his upper back a bit before taking the court again.— Stephanie Myles (@OpenCourt) April 23, 2014
Whatever the trainer did obviously worked as Nadal broke Ramos at love in the very next game to take the set 6-4 and seal the victory.
Nadal certainly deserved the win as he worked hard throughout and withstood Ramos' mini runs from time to time. However, he'll want to clean some things up ahead of Thursday's third-round match.
Nadal recorded 27 unforced errors for the match and lost control of his backhand at times in the second set. If he can improve in that area moving forward, there's no reason he can't add another title to his trophy case.
Who are you taking to win the 2014 Barcelona Open?
Although he struggled early and was never able to pull away from Ramos, Wednesday turned out to be an excellent day for Nadal, who saw second-seeded David Ferrer (the man who beat him in Monte Carlo last week) bow out in the match before his. And with third-seeded Fabio Fognini also losing on Wednesday, fourth-seeded Kei Nishikori is Rafa's biggest threat the rest of the way.
Nadal is 2-1 all-time against Dodig, whom he'll play on Thursday, but beat him convincingly last summer at the 2013 U.S. Open and won their only meeting on clay in Barcelona back in 2011.
Therefore, Nadal will be a heavy favorite to not only advance to the quarterfinals on Thursday, but also to return to the tournament final and ultimately win his ninth Barcelona Open singles title in 10 years.
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