April 24, 2006

Nadal out to extend winning streak in Barcelona

By Simon Cambers

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Champion Rafael Nadal will have to
battle fatigue and a strong field as he aims to extend his
claycourt winning streak at the Barcelona Open which starts on

Having beaten world number one Roger Federer for the fourth
time in five meetings to capture his second successive Monte
Carlo Masters title on Sunday, Nadal will be the overwhelming
favorite at the Real Club de Barcelona.

The 19-year-old Spaniard has now won 42 consecutive matches
on clay. He is third in the all-time list behind Argentine
Guillermo Vilas and Bjorn Borg of Sweden.

After scrapping for almost four hours on Sunday, however,
he will need to recover quickly.

The top seed has a bye into round two where he could face
fellow Spaniard, Feliciano Lopez.

Guillermo Coria, the third seed, or former French Open
champion Juan Carlos Ferrero could await him in the

On the form of previous years, Coria would be confident of
at least reaching the semi-finals but the Argentine is
struggling with his serve.

He produced an ATP Tour record 23 double faults in one
match last week in Monte Carlo but was unfazed by the problem.

"Whatever the number of double faults, be it 15 or 20, it
doesn't matter," he said in Monte Carlo.

"Since I had surgery on my shoulder, I cannot hope to serve
as well as I did before but I'm still working on that shot and
what I need is confidence.

"I'm hoping I will be able to serve as good as I played in
my first match in Miami where I didn't make any double faults."

Coria will meet either Tomas Zib of the Czech Republic or
Galo Blanco, a Spanish wildcard entrant, in the second round.

Ferrero continues his quest to regain the form that made
him the world's best player on clay in 2003.

As a former Barcelona winner, he should feel at home this
week but the 26th ranked Ferrero faces a tough first-round
match against Belgium's Kristof Vliegen who has reached two
semi-finals this year.

In the bottom half of the draw, second seed Nikolay
Davydenko and a trio of Spaniards -- David Ferrer, Tommy
Robredo, 1998 Roland Garros champion Carlos Moya -- will all be
looking for a big week.

Another former French Open champion, Albert Costa, will
make his final ATP Tour appearance before retiring. The Spanish
wildcard will face American Vincent Spadea in the opening