AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
BARCELONA: Rafael Nadal confirmed his status as king of clay on Sunday when the Spanish powerhouse won his seventh Barcelona Open title with a high-quality 7-6 (7/1), 7-5 defeat of David Ferrer.
World No 2 Nadal went from one history-making weekend to another after claiming an unprecedented eighth straight title a week ago in Monte Carlo where he beat world No 1 Novak Djokovic. Seven days later, he took nearly three hours to add to his records in Barcelona as he held off compatriot Ferrer.
Nadal and his friend were playing their fourth final at the Real Club de Tenis, with Nadal winning all of them dating back to 2008. He now stands as the only man to win two different events at least seven times each.
Nadal’s victory was his 34th in a row at Barcelona and improved his finals record on clay to 34-4. His only clay finals losses have come against Djokovic and Roger Federer, each beating him twice.
Sunday’s final was the 10th between Spaniards at the tournament in the Open era, the sixth featuring Nadal and the fourth in five years between Nadal and Ferrer. Spaniards have won the home title for the past 10 years since 2003.
The marathon final looked never-ending after a first set lasting 93 minutes with Nadal saving five set points in the 12th game before the tiebreaker which he dominated. Ferrer, 30, refused to roll over, with the third seed coming from 1-3 down as he broke Nadal in the fifth game and then did it again for 5-4 as Nadal produced a double-fault.
But Nadal was not done, with the top seed breaking back for 5-5, producing a love game for 6-5 and breaking again to end the dramatic contest a game later on the first of three match points. Nadal now stands 14-4 over Ferrer after winning the 48th trophy of his career.
Stuttgart: Maria Sharapova earned her first title of the year on Sunday as she blasted her way past world No 1 Victoria Azarenka 6-1, 6-4 in the final of the Stuttgart claycourt tournament.
This was the 25-year-old Sharapova’s 25th title of her career, but her first in 2012 having lost three finals previously. It was also revenge for both this year’s Australian Open and Indian Wells defeats at the hands of Azarenka and having also been runner-up at the Miami tournament, when she lost to Agnieszka Radwanska in straight sets.
Her victory in 84 minutes comes with both a winner’s cheque of $115,000 and a new Porsche sports car. Azarenka needed treatment on her right wrist after the first set and did not look as sharp as she had done throughout the week, but rallied in the second to push Sharapova.
Sharapova demolished her opponent in the first set, needing exactly 30 minutes having raced into a 3-0 lead. In a competitive encounter, the world’s top two players even barged into one another during a change over.