ONLY one unseeded players – Cameron Norrie – remains in the 2021 Barcelona Open ATP 500 event, after the Round of 16 yielded largely predictable results. Three of the top eight seeds were ousted in the third round, by five of the top six booked their place in the quarter finals.
Top seed Rafael Nadal again needed three sets, this time against Japan’s Kei Nishikori, with the 11-time winner trouncing his opponent 6-0 in the opening set, before the two-time Barcelona winner hit back. Nishikori won the second set 6-2, before the number one seed once again got on top to win in three sets, 6-0 2-6 6-2. The world number three had to grind out the win with Nishikori playing his usual-defensive gamestyle that wears down opponents. Nadal has no issues digging deep though, and in the end, just the three winners to Nishikori cost him, and edged Nadal to a 12-2 record in their head-to-head.
“I think I played much better than yesterday; that’s a very important thing for me,” Nadal said post-match. “The level of positive energy [was] higher, so [I’m] very satisfied.”
Nadal will now face the unseeded Norrie who managed to also dominate eighth seed David Goffin early, winning the first set 6-0. Goffin hit back to lead 5-3 in the second, before the Belgian was forced to retire with a right leg injury. In the sole head-to-head clash between the pair, Nadal defeated Norrie a couple of months back in the fourth round of the Australian Open.
Meanwhile 10th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime ousted compatriot Denis Shapovalov in a massive straight sets win. Auger-Aliassime won 6-2 6-3 to book his spot in the quarter finals, in just 89 minutes. The Canadian up-and-comer was phenomenal in his approach, having also knocked Shapovalov out of this year’s Australian Open, dominated on serve.
“I was happy with my level today,” Auger-Aliassime said post-match. “It’s never easy to play against him and it’s great to have won in straight sets. The next match won’t be easy, a tough challenge.”
The Canadian will now face second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who fought past 14th seed Australian Alex de Minaur, 7-5 6-3. The Greek needed one hours and 24 minutes to post the win, breaking three times to one, and winning 76 per cent of his first serve points off a 70 per cent clip, with five aces. He won 69 per cent of his service points, and 35 per cent of his return points in an impressive display.
“I was playing close to the lines so that was definitely difficult,” Tsitsipas said. “He’s a good competitor; he always puts out his best game. I think running and getting an extra ball back is actually his biggest strength so that’s what makes him very difficult to play against.”
Tsitsipas said he was looking forward to playing the 10th seed Canadian, who was in good form and ever-improving, a challenge the Greek star was ready for coming into the Barcelona Open quarter finals.
“I’ve never played him (Auger-Aliassime) on clay,” Tsitsipas said. “He’s someone that has done very well in recent years and [he’s] playing at the top of his form right now. I’m looking forward to the next battle, to the next difficulty that’s set, and can’t wait to compete against Felix.”
In other results, third seed Andrey Rublev posted a three-set hard-fought win over Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-4 6-7 6-4, and fourth seed Diego Schwartzman cruised through with a 6-4 6-3 triumph over France’s Corentin Moutet. Sixth seed Pablo Carreno Busta ended the run of his Spanish compatriot and qualifier Bernabe Zapata Miralles 6-3 6-4, with 11th seed Jannik Sinner also making his way into the quarter finals with a 7-6 6-2 victory over Spains’s Roberto Bautista Agut.
In Serbia, the remaining four Round of 16 matches were completed, with third seed Aslan Karatsev the sole successful seed on the day. He had to fight off a match point against Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene before winning 6-3 4-6 7-6, while the news was not as positive for fourth seed Dusan Lajovic, with the Serbian going down in three sets to Argentinian Federico Delbonis, 6-3 2-6 6-4. In other results, a couple of Australians fell with seventh seed John Millman losing out to Japanese lucky loser Tarro Daniel in three sets 3-6 6-2 6-3, while Alexei Popyrin fell at the hands of Italian qualifier, Gianluca Mager.
BARCELONA OPEN ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:
 Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated Kei Nishikori (JPN) 6-0 2-6 6-2
 Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) defeated  Alex de Minaur (AUS) 7-5 6-3
 Andrey Rublev (RUS) defeated Albert Ramos-Vinolas (ESP) 6-4 6-7 6-4
 Diego Schwartzman (ARG) defeated Corentin Moutet (FRA) 6-4 6-3
 Jannik Sinner (ITA) defeated  Roberto Bautista Agut (ESP) 7-6 6-2
 Pablo Carreno Busta (ESP) defeated [Q] Bernabe Zapata Miralles (ESP) 6-3 6-4
 Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) defeated  Denis Shapovalov (CAN) 6-2 6-3
Cameron Norrie (GBR) defeated  David Goffin (BEL) 6-0 3-5 RET
SERBIA OPEN ROUND OF 16 RESULTS:
 Aslan Karatsev (RUS) defeated Aljaz Bedene (SLO) 6-3 4-6 7-6
Federico Delbonis (ARG) defeated  Dusan Lajovic (SRB) 6-3 2-6 6-4
[LL] Taro Daniel (JPN) defeated  John Millman (AUS) 3-6 6-2 6-3
[Q] Gianluca Mager (ITA) defeated Alexei Popyrin (AUS) 7-5 6-2
Picture credit: ATP Tour