The Real Club de Tenis Barcelona is Spain’s oldest and most historic tennis club. It’s home to the ATP 500 Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, Spain’s most important clay court tennis tournament and a hugely important date in the Catalan social planner. It’s a matter of days until the ATP circus winds its way back to the east coast of Spain, with a €1.56m prize purse up for grabs.
The Catalan capital is no stranger to hosting big sporting events. It’s home to two La Liga giants in the shape of FC Barcelona and Espanyol and also plays host to EPT Barcelona, which is a popular leg of the European Poker Tour (EPT).
The Real Club de Tenis Barcelona is also something of a spiritual home for Rafael Nadal, who has dominated this event for more than a decade, winning 11 times at this tournament.
Will Nadal make it a round dozen come April 25? It’s not going to be easy for him, with 11 of the world’s top 20 players entered. Let’s take a look at the list of potential contenders for Nadal’s long-time Catalan crown:
World number five Stefanos Tsitsipas is a hugely talented 22-year-old star and already the most successful tennis export in Greece’s history. Tsitsipas has started the 2021 ATP season in solid form, reaching the semi-finals of the Australian Open, eventually losing to Daniil Medvedev. Stefanos has followed that up with a semi-final appearance in Rotterdam and a final defeat to Alex Zverev in the Mexican Open. A tough opponent on clay, he is likely to be Nadal’s biggest threat in Barcelona.
Diminutive Argentine Diego Schwartzman has enjoyed a rapid rise up the ATP world rankings in the last 12-18 months. The 28-year-old now finds himself ninth, proudly inside the top ten. His performances at clay court tournaments are the bedrock of his career to date. He won the Argentina Open in early March but only reached the third round on the hard courts of the Australian Open. Real Club de Tenis Barcelona will be right up his street and he’ll be keen to make his mark for the first time.
Experienced Belgian David Goffin remains a dangerous opponent despite falling outside the ATP top ten of late. Now ranked 13, he is still sure to be pushing for a quarter-final place at least. Goffin claimed the recent Open Sud de France in late February, overcoming Roberto Bautista Agut in a grueling three-set final. He has a propensity to lose to relative unknowns however, so he’s just as likely to make a first-round exit as he is to graft his way into the semis or finals.
The Spaniard returns to his homeland for the ATP 500 Barcelona Open and Bautista Agut is certainly one of the fiercest competitors in this year’s entry list. The 32-year-old is by no means the most talented on the ATP circuit but what he lacks in finesse he more than makes up for in work rate and guile. In the build-up to Barcelona, Bautista Agut has reached the semis of the Miami Open, overcoming Russian top seed Daniil Medvedev, who moved to number two in the world rankings following his recent Open 13 Provence success in Marseille. He’s also reached the final of the Qatar Open and the final of the Open Sud de France in recent weeks.
It’s fair to say that 29-year-old Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov has failed to build on the huge potential from his younger days. Despite career earnings of well over $19 million, Dimitrov only has one major title to his name, being the ATP World Tour Finals in 2017. The Barcelona Open has not been a happy hunting ground for Dimitrov in recent years, with a quarter-final loss to Carreno Busta in 2018 followed by a third-round exit in 2019. A quarter-final appearance at the 2021 Australian Open suggests there’s still life in Dimitrov yet. He is someone with the natural technique and ability to give the likes of Nadal and Tsitsipas a tough game and could be a huge contender if his mentality is right.
Other notable mentions go to promising Italian teen Jannik Sinner, who has enjoyed a meteoric rise through the rankings to 31, and talented Peruvian Felix Auger-Aliassime. Both of whom are contenders to “dominate the tennis of the future” according to the Barcelona Open’s entry press release.