BARCELONA, Spain — Rafael Nadal won the Barcelona Open for the eighth time Sunday after seeing off Nicolas Almagro 6-4, 6-3 in the final.
Almagro played aggressively early on and built a 3-0 lead, but Nadal found his form and broke his fellow Spaniard in three of his next four service games to take the initiative for good.
It was Nadal’s 54th career title and fourth this year, having made six straight finals after returning from a knee injury that had kept him off the courts since last summer.
The title came one week after Nadal’s eight-year reign at Monte Carlo ended in a loss to top-ranked Novak Djokovic.
"I am very happy," Nadal said. "It has been an important week for me to win here again and a great source of joy after everything I have been through."
Nadal has won 39 straight matches on the red clay at Real Club de Tenis, with his last loss coming 10 years ago to Spain's Davis Cup captain, Alex Corretja. The 26-year-old Nadal won the tournament from 2005-09 but missed the 2010 edition because of a knee injury. He has won every year since.
"I didn't know in 2005 that I would win again or that in 2013 I would still be winning," Nadal said.
His latest trophy is a promising sign that he is getting back to full fitness after his nagging case of tendinitis in time for the French Open beginning at the end of May.
"With just these six tournament since I have returned, I have managed to assure my place in the top 10 one more year, which is positive," said Nadal. "These months of work have been worth it."
Even so, Nadal was hesitant to read too much into his impressive return as far as what it means for the upcoming Grand Slam at Roland Garros, where he has won a record seven times.
"This win doesn't mean much (about the future)," he said. "Just that I am in good form since I have come back. The results are fantastic, I would never have imagined them and they are better than I had dreamed.
"I am back playing at a high level."
Nadal dominated the second set, but Almagro enjoyed a good start and stole Nadal's first service game with a forehand winner before holding his serve to love.
Almagro continued to work Nadal around the court with his deep backhand strokes and broke Nadal yet again for a 3-0 lead following a long rally when he swatted a running crosscourt return past the favourite.
Nadal then showed why he hasn't lost here in a decade, rolling off four straight games to take control.
"It was important for me to get the break down 3-0," Nadal said.
Almagro was serving up 30-0 and committed a series of errors including a final double fault to let Nadal level at three games apiece.
Nadal took control of the first set and the match by breaking Almagro a third time. Down 0-30, Nadal saved a point by returning a defensive lob with a shot from between his legs, before Almagro ceded the game and set.
In the second, Nadal pressed home his advantage and broke Almagro for 3-1.
Nadal serve out the match to love before applauding the local fans who had cheered both players on despite the drizzling rain.
Nadal has won all 10 meetings with the 12th-ranked Almagro.
"He showed again why he is the best player in history on this surface," Almagro said, adding he'll try to win the title next year "if Rafa let's me."