Rafael Nadal won his 11th Barcelona title on Sunday when he breezed past Greek teenager Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-2, 6-1 in the final.
It was world number one Nadal’s 55th career clay-court title while he also extended his winning streak on the surface to 46 consecutive sets.
The 31-year-old Spaniard won his 11th Monte Carlo Masters last weekend also without dropping a set.
Sunday’s victory reinforced his status as the overwhelming favourite to lift the French Open for an 11th time in June.
Nadal now has 77 titles overall while his career clay-court match record stands at 401 wins against just 35 defeats.
His win on Sunday was greeted by ticker-tape and a video review of all his titles on the centre court in Barcelona which now bears his name.
“It’s really emotional to see that video. I never dreamed of having a career like this,” said the 16-time Grand Slam title winner.
“Last year, they made a video of my 10 titles here. Now they have had to make another video for 11 – it makes me feel like I am ageing.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) April 29, 2018
“Thanks to everyone for making the tournament so special and thanks to my family who have been with me even when things have not been so smooth.”
Tsitsipas, 19 years old and ranked 63, was the first Greek man to make an ATP final since Nicholas Kalogeropoulos in Des Moines back in 1973.
He was also the youngest Barcelona finalist since Nadal in 2005.
“Stefanos, you had an incredible week. You have a great future and I wish you great success,” added Nadal of an opponent who will become just the second teenager in the world top 50 next week after Canada’s Denis Shapovalov.
Nadal needed just 77 minutes to claim victory on Sunday.
After racing through the opening set, he was quickly 3-0 up in the second before Tsitsipas carved out a degree of hope in the fourth game when he had two break points.
They were quickly saved by nadal who then claimed the title on a third match point in the seventh game when the teenager dumped a one-handed backhand into the net.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) April 29, 2018
Provided by AFP Sport
A tight match had been anticipated, but Nadal produced one of the most dominant wins of his career as Thiem fell to pieces in the Monaco sunshine.
The Austrian didn’t get on the scoreboard until the 10th game, drawing loud cheers from the crowd.
But it was a ruthless performance from the 16-time Grand Slam champion, who has to successfully defend the title this week to remain ahead of Roger Federer at the top of the world rankings.
“Here I think I played great… Have been a great day for me, and a very good result against a very difficult rival,” said Nadal.
The Spaniard is now just two wins away from a record 31st Masters title, after winning 32 consecutive sets on clay.
Nadal will face Grigor Dimitrov in his 13th Monte Carlo semi-final on Saturday, but the Bulgarian will need a massive improvement from his win over David Goffin if he’s to stand a chance of claiming a second career victory against the 10-time champion.
“It’s difficult to play better than today,” admitted Nadal.
“Being honest, I have to recognise that. But my goal is to rest and to try to wake up tomorrow again with the same energy and to go on court with the same mentality, try to play close to the way that I played today.”
Nadal started as if he knew Thiem was a potential threat, holding to love before breaking the 24-year-old at the first time of asking.
Thiem was not serving at the same level he managed in his win over two-time champion Novak Djokovic on Thursday, and although he staved off five break points in game four, he dumped a forehand into the net to gift Nadal a 4-0 lead.
Thiem was struggling, but Nadal barely missed a shot in a near-perfect opening set that he wrapped up with another strong return.
It was the 12th time Nadal had whitewashed a set against a top-10 player, and he got the second set underway with another love hold.
Thiem was wilting in the sweltering conditions and under the pressure from the other side of the net, and then back-to-back miscued forehands saw him lose an eighth straight game.
The Austrian, a two-time French Open semi-finalist, finally held his serve to trail 3-1 and deny Nadal the first 6-0, 6-0 victory of his career on the ATP Tour.
The 31-year-old brought up match point with a searing forehand winner, and completed a 68-minute demolition as Thiem fired a backhand into the net.
Dimitrov benefitted from a second-set collapse by Goffin to reach the semi-finals for the first time with a 6-4, 7-6 (7/5) victory.
The 26-year-old Bulgarian got the better of a nervy Goffin in a repeat of last year’s ATP Tour Finals final.
The pair will team up later on Friday in the doubles quarter-finals, but there was no charity on offer from Dimitrov towards his partner turned opponent.
Dimitrov has struggled on clay in the past and has never passed the French Open third round, but he was too strong for Goffin in the principality as he fought back from 5-1 down in the second set.
“Yes, for sure he’s the favourite. Yes, he has a great record. Yes, he’s the best player on clay. That definitely doesn’t discourage me,” said the fourth seed.
“That excites me to get out on Saturday and play my match, simple as that.”
Kei Nishikori overcame a blip at the end of the second set to see off second seed Marin Cilic and reach his first Masters semi-final since Canada in July 2016.
The Japanese only returned from a right wrist injury in January, but played one of his best matches this year to beat Cilic 6-4, 6-7 (1/7), 6-3 in a rematch of the Croatian’s 2014 US Open final victory.
He will next face either Richard Gasquet or Alexander Zverev in the last four.
The 16-time Grand Slam champion needs to win an 11th Monte Carlo title to stay clear of Roger Federer at the top of the world rankings, and he made short work of Khachanov in Monaco.
Khachanov held his own at times in the opening set, but Nadal moved through the gears and claimed his second comfortable victory of the week after his opening win over Aljaz Bedene.
Thiem should provide a sterner test in the last eight, after the Austrian fifth seed came from a set down to beat Novak Djokovic.
Nadal has lost twice to Thiem on clay, but produced a dominant display in the French Open semi-finals last year en route to his 10th Roland Garros title.