If Rafael Nadal is to win his 11th Barcelona title and remain at No. 1 in the ATP Rankings, he will have earned it.
Nadal finds himself in a loaded quarter of the draw at next week’s Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, with two-time champion Kei Nishikori looming in the third round and longtime rival Novak Djokovic potentially awaiting in the last eight. An encounter with Nishikori would be a rematch of their Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters final, set for Sunday in the Principality.
The Spaniard enters his home tournament in search of what he hopes will be the second of three 11-title milestones during the European clay-court season. He is also bidding for 11th crowns in Monte-Carlo and Roland Garros. Nadal, who has prevailed at the Trofeo Conde de Godó from 2005-09, ’11-13 and ’16-17, opens against either countryman Roberto Carballes Baena or Andreas Haider-Maurer.
Nishikori, seeded 14th, faces either Yuichi Sugita or Guillermo Garcia-Lopez to open his bid for a third tournament title. Champion in 2014-15, he enters Barcelona with great momentum at his back after reaching his fourth ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final in Monte-Carlo on Saturday.
Djokovic, meanwhile, is in Barcelona for the first time since 2006 after being awarded a wild card on Friday. The Serbian opens against either a qualifier or Argentina’s Federico Delbonis, with Nadal or Nishikori looming large in a potential blockbuster quarter-final. He is coming off a third-round finish in Monte-Carlo, where he claimed his first match wins since January in his comeback from an elbow injury.
Also in the top half of the draw, David Goffin makes his third appearance at the ATP World Tour 500 event and is joined by Hyeon Chung and Roberto Bautista Agut as Top 10 seeds looking to make a splash.
Championship Clash: Rafa, Kei Set Stage For Final
Other past champions at the Real Club de Tenis Barcelona include 15th seed Fernando Verdasco (2010) and wild card Tommy Robredo (2004). Last year’s runner-up Dominic Thiem is seeded third and could face Verdasco in the third round. Thiem and second seed Grigor Dimitrov, who is coming off a semi-final run in Monte-Carlo, lead the pack in the bottom half. Dimitrov opens against either Philipp Kohlschreiber or Gilles Simon, as the German and Frenchman face off for the 10th time in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.
The Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell is another important tournament for those battling to qualify for the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan. Currently in fourth place, Andrey Rublev could battle Dimitrov in the third round, while seventh-placed Stefanos Tsitsipas is a potential second round opponent of Diego Schwartzman. Spanish 20-year-olds Jaume Munar and Pedro Martinez are wild card entrants.