Rafael Nadal, following a bye through the opening round, played his second-round match at ATP Barcelona 2016 on Wednesday. The Spaniard drew countryman Marcel Granollers in the match, a head-to-head meeting that was favorable to Nadal. Not surprisingly, the Spanish No. 1 is through to the round of 16 following a comprehensive 6-3, 6-2 victory.
Next up for Nadal is another Spaniard as Albert Montanes is still plugging away on tour. The 35-year-old has seen better days in his career as he is now ranked 104th in the world. Many years ago, Montanes was a regular threat for ATP titles in the smaller clay-court events. For instance, between 2008 and 2010 inclusively he won five clay-court titles before adding another in 2013.
However, despite that success, Montanes is yet to defeat Nadal heads up. The last time that they met was in 2014 on the clay courts in Rio. Nadal won that match easily 6-1, 6-2.
With victory perhaps a foregone conclusion in Barcelona’s round of 16, Nadal would likely face Fabio Fognini in the quarterfinal round. The Italian has had the Spaniard’s number in some recent match-ups however Fognini is not enjoying a good season to date. Entering this week he was just 3-5 in the year and he has very much been overlooked in the Barca draw for that reason. With Viktor Troicki alive in Nadal’s quarter, it might be the Serb that comes through instead of Fognini.
What Nadal will have in the quarters onward in Barcelona this week remains to be seen. Many are calling for him to win the 500-series event following the victory last week at the more prestigious Monte-Carlo Masters. However, should Nadal make the final he stands to be a tired man due to his compact schedule of late.
In Nadal’s favor is some recent news. David Ferrer (calf) has pulled out of the tournament, and so has Richard Gasquet (rib), two top ten players whose absences severely dilute the talent in the Barcelona draw. But Kei Nishikori still looms large on the other half of the draw, and the Barca clay has been his event in recent seasons. Should a Nadal/Nishikori final take place, it’s one where the Japanese No. 1 might be able to outrun a possibly fatigued Rafa.
The French Open starts in about a month’s time. If Nadal can win both Monte-Carlo and Barcelona in back-to-back weeks, then it has some fantastic implications for him for the French. Winning two straight tournaments without rest against players that are rested is the toughest thing to do on tour. The last time Nadal did it was in the summer of 2013 at Montreal and Cincinnati. A short time later he was the sole survivor at Flushing Meadows. If Nadal can complete Barcelona unscathed, then I would consider him the heavy French Open favorite over Novak Djokovic.