One of the most prestigious tournaments of the European clay court season takes place every April. First held in 1953, the Barcelona Open is the oldest tennis event in Spain and is currently part of the ATP 500 series.
The tournament is relatively unusual on the ATP Tour in that it has remained at the same venue throughout its history. Spain’s oldest tennis club, the Real Club de Tenis Barcelona, is the setting for what has become one of the country’s most popular annual sporting events.
Played on outdoor clay, and usually in glorious spring weather, fans have flocked to the club for over 60 years. Situated in the northwest of Spain’s second largest city, the Real Club de Tenis Barceona boasts a stadium court that can seat 7,200 spectators, as well as another 2000-seater show court.
Since 2006, a seniors tournament has been held alongside the main ATP event, giving fans the opportunity to watch and interact with legendary players from a bygone era. Sergi Bruguera, Marcelo Rios, Goran Ivanisevic and John McEnroe have each played in Barcelona in recent years.
Somewhat surprisingly, Americans dominated the event in its early years, and there wasn’t a Spanish winner until Andreas Giméno hoisted the trophy in 1960. Australia’s Roy Emerson was the most prolific winner of the tournament during the amateur era. The 12-time Grand Slam champion won a hat-trick of Barcelona titles in 1961, 1963 and 1964.
As tennis’s professional era dawned, one local hero came to rule Barcelona: Manuel Orantes. The Spaniard reached seven finals between 1969 and 1977, winning three times. Other notable champions in the 1970s and 1980s include Bjorn Borg, Ilie Nastase and Ivan Lendl, each of whom won twice, as well as Mats Wilander, who triumphed three years running from 1982 - 1984.
Making a mockery of all previous records, however, is Rafael Nadal. Since losing in the second round as a 16-year-old in 2003, the King of Clay hasn’t lost a match in Barcelona. His incredible run of seven titles comprises five in a row from 2005 - 2009, and two more back-to back wins in 2011 and 2012. He didn’t play the event in 2004 or 2010.
Juan Carlos Ferrero def. Carlos Moya, 2001 final:
There have been many all-Spanish finals in Barcelona over the years, but none were as closely contested as the 2001 showpiece match. Moya, the 1998 French Open champion, was playing in his first final at the event, whereas Ferrero, the third seed, had finished runner-up to Marat Safin the previous year.
Moya gave a clay court masterclass in the opening set. Using his powerful forehand to dictate points and keep his opponent off balance, he broke the Ferrero serve in the third game of the match and held on to clinch it 6-4. When he broke again at the beginning of the second set, it looked as though the elder Spaniard was about to run away with the match. However, 21-year-old Ferrero broke straight back, fought off more break points later on in the set, and eventually took it 7-5.
Having gained a firm foothold, Ferrero proved the much stronger player in the third. The Mosquito used his trademark aggression and superior speed around the court to bamboozle Moya and force him into making errors. By taking the third set 6-3 and securing a two sets to one lead, all signs pointed to Ferrero wrapping up a hard-fought but decisive four-set victory.
Yet Moya, a superb competitor, wasn’t done yet. As the shadows lengthened at the Real Club de Tenis Barcelona, he stepped up at the beginning of the fourth set, breaking Ferrero’s serve in the second game. After another exchange of breaks, Moya held convincingly to force a decider.
The Majorcan’s exquisite form continued at the start of the fifth set. He broke Ferrero immediately, and even had a point for a double break at 3-1. But once again the third seed clawed his way back, and fended off more break points at 3-all. Both players held serve until, at 5-6 down, Moya followed up an inopportune double fault with an overhead into the net to hand victory to Ferrero.
“This was one of those finals that no one deserved to lose,” said Ferrero after four hours of gruelling, high quality tennis. “I can’t remember playing one that hard.” Although it was a bitterly disappointing defeat for Moya, he would go on to win the Barcelona title in 2003, the same year that Ferrero would win the French Open.
- Since 2007, the Barcelona final has been played as a best-of-three sets match.
- Roy Emerson has won more doubles titles in Barcelona than any other player; between 1959 and 1966, he picked up seven trophies with five different partners.
- The last player to win both singles and doubles titles in the same year was Andrés Gómez in 1990.
- One of the sports’s most legendary clay courters, Guillermo Vilas, never won the title in Barcelona. He was runner-up four years in a row from 1980 - 1983.
- With his victory in Barcelona in 2013, Rafael Nadal became the first player in the Open Era to win two different tournaments eight times. He has that number of titles in Monte Carlo.
- David Ferrer has lost to Nadal in four Barcelona Open finals.