Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates his victory against Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell 2021 in Barcelona, Spain, April 25 2021. Picture: ALEX CAPARROS/GETTY IMAGES
Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates his victory against Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell 2021 in Barcelona, Spain, April 25 2021. Picture: ALEX CAPARROS/GETTY IMAGES

Rafa Nadal saved a match point before defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4 6-7(6) 7-5 to claim a record-extending 12th Barcelona Open title on Sunday, ending his Greek opponent's nine-game unbeaten start to the European clay court swing.

Having collected his first title of the 2021 season, Nadal, 34, will leapfrog Russian Daniil Medvedev to take back the world number two spot in the updated ATP rankings on Monday.

Nadal was on the brink of defeat in the 10th game of the final set but recovered to win three straight games to overcome Monte Carlo champion Tsitsipas after three hours and 38 minutes — making it the longest ATP Tour match of the year.

Tsitsipas, who won his previous meeting with the Spaniard in the Australian Open quarterfinals in February, fought hard to stay in the match and saved two match points before winning the second-set tiebreak to force the decider.

Nadal improved his unbeaten record to 12-0 in finals at one of his favourite ATP events where the main showcourt carries his name.

The 20-time Grand Slam winner will be back in action at May's ATP Masters 1000 tournaments in Madrid and Rome and will look to carry the momentum into the French Open, where he will be seeking a record-extending 14th Roland Garros title.

Reuters

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