Rafael Nadal faces a tricky path at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell if he is to lift a record-extending 12th trophy. Nine players in the Top 20 of the FedEx ATP Rankings feature at the ATP 500 clay-court tournament.
Nadal has avoided his Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters conqueror, Russia’s Andrey Rublev, who features in the bottom half of the 48-player draw alongside Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas. But the Spanish superstar may need to overcome the likes of David Goffin, Karen Khachanov, Diego Schwartzman, Daniel Evans, Fabio Fognini or Pablo Carreno Busta to reach the final.
The 34-year-old Nadal, who has a 61-4 match record in Barcelona since making his tournament debut in 2003, will begin his quest against France’s Adrian Mannarino or a qualifier. Nadal lifted the Barcelona trophy in 2005-09, 2011-13 and 2016-18.
Second seed Tsitsipas, who beat Evans in Monte-Carlo on Saturday for a place in his third ATP Masters 1000 final, may meet Rublev in the Barcelona semi-finals. The pair will meet for the seventh time in their ATP Head2Head series on Saturday in the Monte-Carlo final.
Tsitsipas, who lost to Nadal in Barcelona in his first ATP Tour final three years ago, will begin his quest against Brazil’s Thiago Monteiro or Jaume Munar of Spain. Rublev, who knocked out Nadal 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 in the Monte-Carlo semi-finals on Friday, and has an ATP Tour-best 24-4 match record in 2021, is set to face France’s Benoit Paire or a qualifier in his first match. Rublev could meet No. 15 seed Casper Ruud, the player he beat in the Monte-Carlo semi-finals in the third round.
Italian wild Lorenzo Musetti, the youngest player in the Top 100, faces veteran Spaniard Feliciano Lopez in the first round. The winner will advance to a second-round clash against No. 10 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, who is being coached by Toni Nadal. The loaded section also features seventh seed Denis Shapovalov, who will first meeting France’s Jeremy Chardy or this season’s Qatar ExxonMobil Open titlist Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia.
Jannik Sinner, who is close to breaking into the Top 20 of the FedEx ATP Rankings after a strong start to the year that includes capturing the Great Ocean Road Open title (d. Travaglia), also features in the bottom half of the draw and may meet fifth-seeded Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut in the third round.
The 17-year-old Carlos Alcaraz, who recently reached the AnyTech365 Andalucia Open semi-finals (l. to Munar), plays American Frances Tiafoe in the top half of the draw with fourth seed Schwartzman a second-round opponent.
Elsewhere, Kei Nishikori, the 2014 and 2015 Barcelona champion, who is continuing his comeback from injuries, faces Guido Pella in the first round. He could be a potential third-round opponent for Nadal.