Barcelona - Rafael
Nadal showed no mercy towards an emotional David Ferrer as he eased
into the quarter-finals of the Barcelona Open on Thursday, describing
his compatriot who is winding down his career as a "pleasure to watch".
Ferrer is set to retire after the Madrid Open next month and made a
tearful exit on what was his 15th and final appearance at this
But there was no room for sentiment for Nadal, who won 6-3, 6-3 to take one step closer to a record 12th Barcelona title.
Four of those triumphs came after beating Ferrer in the final and, at
the end of this latest victory, Nadal's 37-year-old opponent saluted
the crowd before placing his pink headband down on the service line.
"David is not retiring because of his level but it has been a complicated year and a half for him with injuries," Nadal said.
"His level this year has still been very high and for all these years
he's been fighting hard and giving us pleasure watching him. We are all
grateful to him."
Ferrer reached a career-high ranking of number three in the world in
2013, the same year he went closest to winning a Grand Slam too, undone
by Nadal again in the French Open final.
"I gave everything I had," added Ferrer.
"I'm very happy, it's a dream come true to play one of my last matches on this court."
Nadal will be gunning for his 12th success at Roland Garros next
month and this was more like the sort of form expected of the world
number two, who had won 30 consecutive sets in Barcelona before falling
one behind to Leonardo Mayer on Wednesday.
"I had to majorly improve," Nadal added.
"I need to step up, play with more energy and a different attitude."
Nadal will now face Germany's Jan-Lennard Struff, who knocked out
fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, before a potential semi-final meeting
with Dominic Thiem, whom he beat in the French Open final last year.
Fourth seed Kei Nishikori is also through after beating Felix Auger-Aliassime in straight sets.
Nadal broke Ferrer for 4-2 in the opening set and was serving for it at 5-3 when rain delayed the match for almost an hour.
But the stoppage could not change the momentum, with Nadal quickly
wrapping up the frame upon his return before breaking again early in the
Ferrer offered some brief resistance, a backhand winner restoring
parity at 2-2 but Nadal raced ahead as a forehand pass and half-volley
put him 5-3 in front.
He missed three match points but converted the fourth before finally
embracing an emotional Ferrer at the net, around them a standing
Results from the ATP Barcelona Open on Thursday (x denotes seeding):
Rafael Nadal (ESP x1) bt David Ferrer (ESP) 6-3, 6-3
Jan-Lennard Struff (GER) bt Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE x5) 6-4, 3-6, 6-2
Dominic Thiem (AUT x3) bt Jaume Munar (ESP) 7-5, 6-1
Guido Pella (ARG) bat Benoît Paire (FRA) 7-5, 6-3
Roberto Carballes (ESP) bt Christian Garín (CHI) 6-4, 7-6 (7/2)
Kei Nishikori (JPN x4) bt Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN x16) 6-1, 6-3
Daniil Medvedev (RUS x7) bt Mackenzie McDonald (USA) 6-3, 6-2
Nicolas Jarry (CHI) bt Grigor Dimitrov (BUL x13) 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/2)