World number two Rafa Nadal said his gruelling 6-4 6-7(6) 7-5 win over Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Barcelona Open final on Sunday could prepare him for long battles ahead in the European claycourt season.
The 34-year-old, who claimed a record-extending 12th Barcelona title, suffered a back injury in Melbourne earlier this year before he was beaten by Tsitsipas in the Australian Open quarter-finals.
Following a spell out on the sidelines, the 20-times Grand Slam champion returned to action at Monte Carlo this month, going out in the quarters.
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But the Spaniard, who will be looking for a 14th French Open crown when the claycourt Grand Slam begins on May 30, showed he was returning to his battling best on Sunday, saving a match point before going on to winning his first title of 2021.
At three hours and 38 minutes, it was the longest best-of-three-set ATP Tour final since statistics started being tracked in 1991, the governing body of men's tennis said.
"I haven't been able to play a lot of competitive matches for the past couple of months. It's true that matches like today make me feel better physically and more ready for long battles," Nadal told reporters.

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"I think I've been able to play better and better during the whole week in every single match and today was a bit better than yesterday. I have room to keep improving. I wasn't perfect.
"I really believe I can play better than what I'm doing on clay and I hope that the victory is going to help me to raise a little bit my level that I need to fight for the next couple of events that I'm going to play."
Nadal will next be in action at the Madrid Open in early May.
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15/09/2021 AT 12:25