Nadal claims 11th Barcelona title
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Rafael Nadal continues to make winning on clay look all too easy.
Nadal extended his dominance on the surface with a 6-2, 6-1 win over 19-year-old Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas on Sunday to win his 11th Barcelona Open title.
Nadal, who also won his 11th Monte Carlos Masters title last week, was never seriously challenged on his way to a 19th straight victory on clay.
The top-ranked Spaniard has won 46 straight sets on clay, extending his own record. He hasn’t lost on clay since facing Dominic Thiem in Rome last year.
“It’s very difficult to describe how to win 11 titles at one tournament,” Nadal said. “To win 11 Monte Carlos and 11 Barcelonas is something I couldn’t imagine doing. I’m just enjoying every week and the fact I’m playing in a tournament that I enjoy so much means a lot to me.”
It was the 77th title overall for Nadal, tying him with John McEnroe for fourth best in the Open Era. Only Jimmy Connors, Roger Federer and Ivan Lendl are ahead.
Nadal, who won his 400th match on clay in Saturday’s semifinal, needed the victory in Barcelona to secure his No. 1 ranking.
“It’s hard for anybody to imagine all the feelings and emotions I have when I play here,” Nadal said. “Hopefully I can keep coming back for many more years to come.”
After the win, Nadal dived into a pool at the venue along with some of the tournament’s ball boys and ball girls.
Nadal was out of action earlier this year because of a lingering right hip injury sustained in the Australian Open quarterfinals. He returned to help Spain defeat Germany in the Davis Cup quarterfinals and then went on to win in Monte Carlo.
“I’ve had two fantastic weeks but we were coming off difficult months because of the injuries,” Nadal said.
The 63rd-ranked Tsitsipas was trying to become the first Greek to win an ATP Tour title. He was the first Greek to make it to an ATP final since Nicholas Kalogeropoulos in 1973.
“I knew the chances to win were small but my confidence was rising in every match, and while I was expecting a little better today, congratulations to Rafa,” Tsitsipas said. “It was a first experience and tougher than I thought. I’ve watched him millions of times on TV, but it’s tougher to face him in reality.”
Tsitsipas was the youngest finalist in Barcelona since 2005 and was looking to become the first unseeded champion in the tournament since Gaston Gaudio in 2002.
Tsitsipas had 23 unforced errors in the 77-minute loss on the Rafa Nadal court, with brief rain interruptions.
The Greek is expected to move to 44th in the rankings after his performance in Barcelona.
Capitals hold on to lead this time, beat Penguins in Game 2
WASHINGTON (AP) — Braden Holtby spun around and saw the puck on the goal line. Maybe it was in. Maybe it wasn’t.
But after mounting another two-goal lead and this time building on it instead of blowing it, the Washington Capitals made sure it wasn’t close enough for one questionable call either way to make a difference. With fresh memories of coughing up that same lead in Game 1, this time they took it to the Pittsburgh Penguins and emerged with a 4-1 victory in Game 2 to tie the second-round series.
“You can see what happen last game when we get the lead 2-0 and they come back and win the game,” said Alex Ovechkin, who scored his seventh goal of the playoffs. “They’re experienced team, they’re not going to give up and they’re not gonna give easy play for us. We have to earn it. Today I think we play a solid game, everybody was in and we get the result.”
It was a result that came with controversy and a potentially significant aftermath as the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion-Penguins came out on the wrong side of a coach’s challenge, the NHL’s video review on what would have been their second goal and lost defenseman Brian Dumoulin after a hit to the head by Tom Wilson.
Holtby stopped 32 of the 33 shots he faced to frustrate the Penguins, robbing captain Sidney Crosby and linemate Jake Guentzel with sliding pad saves to continue his strong play in the postseason.
The Penguins thought he should’ve allowed one more goal to Patric Hornqvist in the third period. No definitive replays showing the puck over the goal line and Wilson’s hit that injured Dumoulin left them steaming but also kicking themselves for starting slow and falling behind again.
“They won the game in the first period,” Hornqvist said. “I don’t think we played our best game. … They were all over us.”
After blowing three two-goal leads through the first seven games of the playoffs, Washington at least temporarily solved that problem. Ovechkin beat Matt Murray 1:26 in, Jakub Vrana scored on the power play later in the first period and, unlike Game 1, the Capitals made it 3-0 when Brett Connolly scored on a breakaway early in the second.
“Game 1 it was tough, we played a really good game I think and they just kind of found a way to get some breaks and score some timely goals,” Connolly said. “We learned from that this time around.”
The Capitals are learning some about Murray, having now scored all five of their goals against him in this series glove side. He made 18 of his 28 saves in the first period and had to in order to keep Washington from turning this into a blowout.
Murray was not the least bit happy when the league ruled Connolly’s push on him moments before Vrana’s goal was not enough to keep him from being able to make the save.
“Pretty disappointed,” Murray said.
“As a goalie you just want to be able to do your job and when something like that happens and you can’t do it, you just want to see the rule upheld.”
Pittsburgh had an even bigger reason to be angry when Wilson wasn’t penalized for checking Dumoulin in the head with his left shoulder in the second. Dumoulin never returned, could potentially miss Game 3 on Tuesday and Wilson is in danger of being suspended.
“He made contact with his head,” Crosby said. “Given his history and things like that, I’m sure the league will take a good look at it.”
Wilson watched multiple replays and came away believing there was nothing else he could do on the play because Dumoulin stopped and braced for a hit from Ovechkin at the last second. Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said he had an opinion of the hit but declined to share it.
Wilson was already ready to move on.
“It’s a bit of an unfortunate play that he got hurt,” he said. “We’ll see what happens and we’ll keep moving forward here. There’s more important things going on. We’ve got a team in here that’s pretty good and confident and we’ve got to go to Pittsburgh and get a game.”
NOTES: The Capitals have now killed 22 consecutive penalties dating to Game 2 of their first-round series against Columbus. … Kris Letang scored Pittsburgh’s only goal on a floater from the point in the second period. … The Penguins were without star center Evgeni Malkin for the third consecutive game because of an apparent leg injury. Sullivan said Malkin could return for Game 3. … Ovechkin tied Crosby and Guentzel for the playoff lead in goals. … The Penguins’ streak of road playoff victories ended at six.