Men’s clay-court tennis in Europe has been functioning in cycles for many years.Rafael Nadal  begins it with the Monte Carlo title, then fortifies his supremacy over all other clay-court specialists beating the best of them –David Ferrer in Barcelona‘s final rounds #, and finally confirms his status of “the clay-court king” clinching another title at Roland Garros ##. Rafa has already done 2/3 of his standard clay-court obligations capturing the 48th title (his 7th in the Catalan capital)… Ferrer overcame two tight matches against big-servers (fought off three match points with a brave attitude against Feliciano Lopez in the quarterfinals) and forced Rafa to an extreme effort, especially in the 1st set of their 4th Barcelona final; Nadal withstood five set points though, serving at 5:6 (two forehand winners, two great points in defense and an ace) to ultimately get the crucial set after 93 minutes. It was Nadal’s first tie-break since the Australian Open final in January. In the 2nd set, Ferrer rallied from a 1:3 deficit to serve for the set at 5:4, but on each of three occasions when he was two points away, he collapsed, once even smashing close to the net (Nadal retrieved the ball and put it away with an overhead himself). Since this week Nadal has defeated two fellow Spaniards, Ferrer and Verdasco 14 times (he has notched more wins only over Federer and Djokovic). “It’s almost unimaginable to win here seven times,” said Nadal. “It’s a special tournament for me, at home in my club. To win at home in front of the people you know is always more special.” Two-time champion of theBRD Nastase Tiriac Trophy, Gilles Simon came back to Bucharest after a 4-year break to keep his winning streak. The Frenchman confirmed his great form he’d displayed a week before at Monte Carlo and prolongs the streak of winning matches in the Romanian capital to 14. His record in ATP finals is impressive: 10-2, it’s the best ratio for active players who have played at least 10 finals. Simon wins at least one title per year since 2007. His final opponent, Fabio Fognini  played first ATP final, he was two months off the tour this year (February and March) due to an injury. In the semifinals he ousted qualifier Attila Balazs  – an unknown man from Hungary for whom it was the first ATP tournament in career. He becomes the first Hungarian in ATP semifinals since Attila Savolt reached the last four in Sopot ten years ago.
S: (1)Rafael Nadal d. (3)David Ferrer 7-6(1), 7-5
D: (4)M.Fyrstenberg/M.Matkowski d. M.Granollers/M.Lopez 2-6, 7-6(7), [10-8] – 3 m.p. *
S: (1)Gilles Simon d. Fabio Fognini 6-4, 6-3
D: (1)R.Lindstedt/H.Tecau d. J.Chardy/L.Kubot 7-6(2), 6-3
Choker of the week: Andrey Golubev, whose leading 6-4, 5:4 (30/0) & 6:5 (30/0) wasn’t enough to beat Steve Darcis. Golubev was also two points away in the 3rd set tie-break, but Darcis eventually prevailed 4-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(5). It happened in the Barcelona’s first round.
* The Polish duo saved a match point also in the 2nd set of their opening match (against Butorac/Soares).
# The Nadal-Ferrer rivalry in Barcelona:
2007, SF: Nadal d. Ferrer 7-5, 6-1 (1:35 h) 2008, F: Nadal d. Ferrer 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 (2:14 h) 2009, F: Nadal d. Ferrer 6-2, 7-5 (1:46 h) 2011, F: Nadal d. Ferrer 6-2, 6-4 (1:49 h) 2012, F: Nadal d. Ferrer 7-6, 7-5 (2:40 h)