A look at Thursday's results from the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, where the quarterfinal lineup took shape.
Nadal wins in three again
In a matchup of former event titlists, 11-time champion Rafael Nadal emerged victorious, 6-0, 2-6, 6-2, over two-time winner Kei Nishikori.
At 0-1, Nishikori began his opening service game with a 40-15 lead, only to lose four consecutive points. After fending off two break points in the ensuing game, Nadal surged to a one-set lead, pouncing on return by earning 13 of 19 points.
Once Nishikori got himself on the scoreboard to open set two, the match took a major turn. A well struck forehand created a break opportunity for Nishikori in the second game, and he capitalized courtesy of a backhand unforced error off the lefty’s racquet. The Japanese continued to see the ball well with deep hitting, stretching the gap to a double-break advantage when Nadal couldn’t handle his opponent’s second-serve return.
With the benefit of serving first, Nadal upped his aggression on return. At 2-1, 30-40, the top seed pressed the issue by coming in off an inside out forehand he took out of the error. Nishikori netted his reply from the baseline, and from there, the match never left Nadal’s hands again.
On Friday, Nadal will face Cameron Norrie. The Brit led eighth seed David Goffin, 6-0, 3-5, before the Belgian was forced to stop with an injury. Norrie is now 14-7 in 2021, highlighted by a semifinal showing in Delray Beach and third-round performance at the Australian Open, where Nadal ended his tournament.
Tsitsipas, Auger-Aliassime to meet in quarters
Monte Carlo champion Stefanos Tsitsipas kept things rolling, notching his seventh consecutive victory. The second seed defeated 14th seed Alex de Minaur, 7-5, 6-3, to remain undefeated in five career meetings with the Australian.
For a place in the semifinals, the Greek will take on Felix Auger-Aliassime. The No. 10 seed won an all-Canadian affair over Denis Shapovalov, 6-2, 6-3, and will look to avenge March’s Acapulco quarterfinal loss to Tsitsipas. The two have never met on clay before in five prior encounters (Tsitsipas leads 3-2).
Last October in Vienna, Andrey Rublev and Jannik Sinner were due to square off in a highly-anticipated meeting. The match lasted just three games, when Sinner was forced to retire with a right foot injury. Fans will get a second opportunity to see two of the most potent ball strikers go at it again, after both advanced in contrasting fashion.
Third seed Rublev held off Albert Ramos-Vinolas, 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-4, improving to 26-5 on the year. For the third time since March 17, the 11th-seeded Sinner got the best of Roberto Bautista Agut, ousting the No. 5 seed, 7-6 (9), 6-2.
"We practiced in Dubai a little bit. I still have to see a little bit of his matches, to see how I’m going to play against him," Sinner said in his press conference. "Try to see what he’s doing good because his level raised incredibly the last couple of months. I think at the moment he's one of the best players, so I'm looking forward [to] a great battle."
Schwartzman sails through
A day after scrapping past Frances Tiafoe in a tough three-setter, Diego Schwartzman enjoyed a much more routine day at the office. The fourth seed broke Corentin Moutet five times from eight opportunities to wrap up a 6-4, 6-2 victory in one hour and 35 minutes.
Schwartzman will next battle sixth seed Pablo Carreno Busta, who won a matchup between Spaniards. The No. 6 seed defeated qualifier Bernabe Zapata Miralles, 6-3, 6-4.