Rafael Nadal showed perfect timing on Saturday, slotting easily into his clay comfort zone to book another final at the Barcelona Open 6-3, 6-2 over sacrificial fellow Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta.
The king of clay needs a Sunday victory over second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas – along with a dose of revenge after losing to the Greek in an Australian Open quarter-final in February – to claim a record 12th trophy at his home tournament.
The winner of three of the last four editions at the Real Club de Tenis, is finding top form at exactly the right moment.
“I’ve been progressing, making things better little by little and the truth is that I feel closer and closer to my level,” the world No. 3 said.
“Today was a very complete match, I started well and then things got a bit complicated, but the serve helped me a lot and I was able to move forward.
“I’m playing much better than when I arrived, but I don’t know if it will be enough for the final.”
Nadal’s plans are already in motion: “I have a day ahead of me to be able to refine some things that I need to solve.”
Nadal leads ATP No. 5 Tsitsipas 6-2 and defeated the 22 year-old here in the 2018 final – a career first title match for the Greek.
But things have changed since then and the 34=year-old Spaniard will want to avenge an Australian Open loss to his rival just two months ago.
“It’s very important for me to be in a final again in this tournament. I’m going to face it with the utmost enthusiasm and humility.
“Perhaps a match as tough as tomorrow will come a little soon, but I have the desire to win – I have nothing to lose and a lot to gain,” Nadal said.
“Stefanos is playing the best tennis of his career, I’ve never seen him play so well before.
“It’s going to be very difficult, one of those matches where I need to play my best tennis if I want to have options.
“This will be a good opportunity to measure myself against the best player of the moment. What’s important is to be competitive.”