Rafael Nadal collects 11th Barcelona Open title

Rafael Nadal continued to grind opponents into the clay as he eased to an 11th title at the Barcelona Open with victory over teenager Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The young Greek had enjoyed the best week of his fledgling career to reach his first ATP Tour final but he was unable to trouble the clay-court master and went down 6-2 6-1 in just 78 minutes.

After winning an 11th Monte-Carlo Masters crown last week, Nadal extended his record to 19 consecutive victories on clay dating back to last year's French Open, all without dropping a set.

The Spaniard said on atpworldtour.com: "I'm very happy for the victory against a very difficult opponent. Tsitsipas has an amazing future. It was a great final for me and the 11th title here means a lot.

"It's very difficult to describe how to win 11 titles at one tournament. To win 11 Monte-Carlos and 11 Barcelonas is something I couldn't imagine doing. I'm just enjoying every week and the fact I'm playing in a tournament that I enjoy so much means a lot to me."

With Novak Djokovic still well short of his best and Nadal's other big rivals either absent or not on top form, it is no surprise he is the odds-on favourite to win the French Open for an 11th time in June.

Tsitsipas, the second youngest player in the top 100 behind Canadian Denis Shapovalov, found success with a few of the flashy shots that have marked him out as one to watch in more than one sense.

But he could not find the consistency to offer more than a fleeting challenge to Nadal, whose next goal will be the Madrid Masters, where the fact he has only won five titles might give his beleaguered opponents some hope.

Tsitsipas was the youngest finalist in Barcelona since Nadal in 2005, and he learned the same lesson as all the Spaniard's previous foes - having a game plan is one thing, executing it quite another.

The 19-year-old said: "I knew the chances to win were small, but my confidence was rising in every match and, while I was expecting a little better today, congratulations to Rafa.

"It was a first experience and tougher than I thought. I've watched him millions of times on TV, but it's tougher to face him in reality. You need to be patient and do everything right, but I was in a rush and had a mess in my head.

"He didn't give me any air to breathe out there. It's something to learn from for sure and I hope to do better against him in the future."

Marco Cecchinato won his maiden ATP Tour title at the Hungarian Open despite losing in the final round of qualifying a week ago.

The Italian was given a lucky loser place and took full advantage, finishing off a dream week with a 7-5 6-4 victory over Australian John Millman, who had earlier had to complete his semi-final against Aljaz Bedene.

- PA


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