Last week’s Monte Carlo event saw Rafael Nadal exit early in the quarter finals of an event that he had dominated for years. With 8 titles in 9 years, his record at Barcelona is up there with the Masters 1000 event. While this years Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell draw isn’t as stacked as Monte Carlo, there is still a number of top players in the way of the world No.1 and his record 9th title.
As expected, the draw is packed full of home players with Nadal leading the list of 14 Spaniards in the draw. Nadal could well play a Spaniard in every round if the draw went to plan but could face Nikolay Davydenko in round two. Davydenko has always troubled Nadal and has a winning record against him although on clay he is 0-4. Davydenko plays Albert Ramos who took a set off Grigor Dimitrov before falling to a three set defeat. Feliciano Lopez plays either an out of form Ivan Dodig or Facundo Arguello in round two. Dodig is 5-9 on the year while Arguello has impressed at Challenger level, winning the Itijai title a few weeks back.
Both Fernando Verdasco and Nicolas Almagro have ugly records against Nadal with just 1 win in 25 between them – Verdasco’s win on the blue clay of Madrid a few years back. It would be a surprise for anyone other than one of these two players to take on Nadal in a potential quarter final. After a promising 2012, Martin Klizan has failed to push on so it should be fairly straight forward for Almagro while Verdasco faces either Kenny de Schepper or qualifier Marcel Ilhan. Ilhan had a losing record on the surface at Challenger level so look for de Schepper to repeat his victory over Ilhan at this event last year, but this time in round one rather than qualifying.
Marcel Granollers is the sole Spaniard in the second quarter and will find it tough especially with Fabio Fognini awaiting in round three. Granollers lost in Casablanca from a set up in the final and would lose in three to Dimitrov in Monte Carlo. He should deal with either Radek Stepanek or qualifier Dominic Thiem who disappointed in Monte Carlo, losing surprisingly to Nicolas Mahut in his opener. After his collapse against Tsonga last week, Fognini will be looking to bounce back. He is 3-1 against likely opponent Santiago Giraldo, who faces Igor Sijsling. Sijsling has lost 8 of his last 10 matches.
Jerzy Janowicz seems to be in freefall right now and will be vulnerable as seventh seed. If Jurgen Melzer can extend his record to 2-0 over Mikhail Kukushkin, the Austrian will fancy his chances and experience could tell as the Pole looks to deal with his current slump. Janowicz lost in straight sets to Michael Llodra last week despite previously performing well on clay. An all-German second round can happen if qualifier Andreas Beck sees off Edouard Roger-Vasselin in his opener. Beck is 2-0 against the Frenchman but the last meeting was 5 years ago. 10th seed Philipp Kohlschreiber awaits the winner.
While Nadal accounts for most of them, Spaniards have won the event every year since 2003. Carlos Moya (2003) and Tommy Robredo (2004) make up the rest with the 5th seed’s victory coming over Gaston Gaudio in five sets. While a second title is very unlikely, a semi final run would not be overly surprising given his quarter. Joao Sousa will be reeling after his loss from a set and break up against Fabio Fognini last week but should get back to winning ways against Marinko Matosevic. A likely fifth career meeting with Marin Cilic awaits in round three but first Cilic must defeat one of two players who have impressed on the clay, albeit at Challenger level. Andrey Kuznetsov qualified for the event and is 2-0 against Pablo Carreno Busta. The Spaniard was dismantled by Novak Djokovic last week, winning just one game.
Kei Nishikori makes his return after yet another injury. It will be his first appearance since he was forced to withdraw from Miami before the semi finals. A win over Roger Federer showcased his credentials on clay last year and his French Open run also included a win over Benoit Paire, the other seed in his section. Nishikori opens against Lukasz Kubot or Roberto Bautista Agut with the Spaniard favoured to make it through. Meanwhile Paire could face Andrey Golubev. The Kazakh beat Stanislas Wawrinka in Davis Cup action although that was indoors. Golubev’s last main draw win on clay came in 2010 – the site of his shock Hamburg victory.
The final quarter is also Spaniard-heavy with Ernests Gulbis and Alexandr Dolgopolov facing the winners of all-Spanish clashes. Dolgopolov plays either Albert Montanes or Marc Lopez. Lopez, usually only a doubles player these days, qualified for this event for the second year running. Gulbis faces either Daniel Gimeno-Traver or Roberto Carballes Baena in his second round. Baena burst onto the scene after his Casablanca run, making the semi finals and pushing eventual winner Guillermo Garcia Lopez to a third set. Gulbis and Dolgopolov met last week in Monte Carlo with the Ukranian a surprisingly easy winner in straight sets.
Wildcard Inigo Cervantes makes his first appearance in just under a year after time out with injury and opens with one of the kinder opening rounds in the draw. Cervantes is 1-0 against Aleksandr Nedovyesov, defeating the Kazakh in 2012. Dmitry Tursunov awaits the winner while David Ferrer rounds off the draw as second seed. Ferrer has made the final four times but never won and is probably the favourite to be the losing finalist this year, despite his win over a poor Nadal in Monte Carlo. Ferrer begins his tournament against Teymuraz Gabashvili or Michal Przysiezny.
SF: Rafael Nadal def. Marcel Granollers
SF: David Ferrer def. Kei Nishikori
F: Rafael Nadal def. David Ferrer