RAFAEL Nadal confirmed his status as king of clay by winning his seventh Barcelona Open title with a high-quality 7-6 (7-1) 7-5 defeat of David Ferrer.
World No2 Nadal went from one history-making result to another after claiming an unprecedented eighth straight title a week ago in Monte Carlo where he beat world No1 Novak Djokovic.
Seven days later, he took nearly three hours to add to his records in Barcelona as he held off compatriot Ferrer.
Nadal and his friend were playing their fourth final at the Real Club de Tenis, with Nadal winning all of them dating back to 2008.
He now stands as the only man to win two different events at least seven times each.
“This was my hardest match since the start of the clay season,” said the winner. “David always takes you to the limit.
“I was lucky when I saved break points. The odds were on my side. In the second set David played very close, but I had the luck at the end. I’m so happy and I feel sorry for him. I’m starting to feel my game well on the clay.”
Nadal’s victory was his 34th in a row at Barcelona and improved his finals record on clay to 34-4.
His only clay finals losses have come against Djokovic and Roger Federer, each beating him twice.
The Barcelona triumph in front of 8,000 fans came exactly 10 years to the day that a 15-year-old Nadal made his debut on the ATP Tour in his native Mallorca.
The 10th between Spaniards at the tournament in the Open era, the sixth featuring Nadal and the fourth in five years between Nadal and Ferrer.
Spaniards have won the home title for the past 10 years since 2003.
“Rafa is Rafa and he is very good,” Ferrer said in defeat. “I’ve lost four times to him in this final. but I’ve always lost to one of the greats. He is a very good player and even better as a person.”
The marathon final looked never-ending after a first set lasting 93 minutes with Nadal saving five set points in the 12th game before the tiebreaker which he dominated.
Ferrer, 30, refused to roll over, with the third seed coming from 1-3 down as he broke Nadal in the fifth game and then did it again for 5-4 as Nadal produced a double-fault.
But Nadal was not done, with the top seed breaking back for 5-5, producing a love game for 6-5 and breaking again to end the dramatic contest a game later on the first of three match points.
Nadal now stands 14-4 over Ferrer after winning the 48th trophy of his career. AFP