Rafael Nadal's early exit was the biggest story of the week at the 2014 Barcelona Open. For most players, a quarterfinal loss would be chalked up as a solid week, but not for Nadal.
The loss marked just his second loss here in 44 matches.
On the other hand, Kei Nishikori looked great in his first tournament back since he suffered an injury in Miami.
His win in Barcelona marks his first career title on clay.
Here are the biggest takeaways from the week in Barcelona.
Rafael Nadal's Struggles Continue
Nicolas Almagro handed Nadal his first defeat in Barcelona in 11 years. His post-match interview can be seen above.
Rafa came into the match undefeated against his fellow Spaniard, but his typical brilliance was missing. To Almagro's credit, he kept his composure after failing to close out the match on his serve the first time around.
Nadal has now lost in the quarterfinals two weeks in a row. This is after winning the two tournaments a combined 16 times since 2005.
This will be his first titleless April since 2004. His edge in the rankings over Novak Djokovic is now less than 2000 points.
With just under a month until the French Open gets underway, Nadal will have to try to regain his form at the two masters events.
He is still the favorite to win Roland Garros, but Rafa is not the clear-cut pick to win like he has been throughout his career.
Santiago Giraldo on the Rise
Santiago Giraldo's hot month of April continued in Barcelona. After starting April ranked No. 86, Giraldo is all the way up to No. 47.
His record now stands at 8-2 on the month. He has beaten three top 20 players over his past two tournaments.
Although he was disappointed not to be holding the trophy, he is happy with his current level of play.
According to atpworldtour.com, he said after the match, "I feel great about the week. It was not an easy day for me. Kei played very good. I have good feelings with my play and my improvements."
The Colombian has very few points to defend through the French Open, so if he keeps his playing at this level, he could make an even bigger jump in the rankings.
Kei Nishikori is Elevating His Game to Another Level
Nishikori cruised past Giraldo 6-2, 6-2 to win his first career title on clay. With the win, Nishikori became the first Japanese-born player to win a clay-court title. Check out his great defensive play from the finals in the video above.
Nishikori hopes to take the confidence he picked up in Miami and Barcelona into the rest of the clay-court season.
According to atpworldtour.com, here is what he had to say after the win:
This title and (my run in) Miami helped my confidence, especially this week on clay. There are three big tournaments coming up in Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros so I hope I can do well and increase my (Emirates ATP Rankings) points. My next goal is to get to the Top 10.
A spot in the top 10 is definitely in reach. He is now just 115 points behind John Isner for the 10th spot. His best opportunity to increase his point total coming up will be in Rome—where he only made it to the round of 32 last year.
Will Nishikori Break into the Top 10?
Nishikori is off to a 22-4 start in 2014, and it will only be a matter of time before he enters the top 10.
**All stats courtesy of atpworldtour.com unless noted otherwise.
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