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Kei Nishikori has found a home away from home in Barcelona, where the Japanese star has captured two titles from three finals at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell.

It took Nishikori four goes to land the heavy 13kg silver trophy, returning from a three-week lay-off due to a groin injury to reach the 2014 final and beat Santiago Giraldo 6-2, 6-2. He became the first non-Spaniard to win the title since Gaston Gaudio in 2002. “This title and (my run in) Miami helped my confidence, especially this week on clay,” said Nishikori.

“I was good on clay when I was little. Like 14 [years old]. I was winning all the European juniors events. Now it’s much tougher than hard courts and I was struggling a bit, but I’ve been playing well these past couple years so there’s no fear to play on clay.”

Nishikori returned the following year to retain the Barcelona crown, once again beating Roberto Bautista Agut in a three-set quarter-final, prior to overcoming Pablo Andujar 6-4 6-4 in the final. He was the seventh player in the Open Era (since April 1968) to clinch back-to-back trophies in Barcelona.

Nishikori went on to stretch his winning streak to 14 matches in Barcelona before coming face-to-face with Rafael Nadal, the then eight-time champion, in the 2016 title match. Nishikori fought hard in his bid for a 12th ATP Tour title, but ultimately fell short to Nadal 6-4, 7-5.

He missed the 2017 edition due to a right wrist injury, which flared up again in 2018 against Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the second round. However, last year, Nishikori demonstrated once again why he’s such a force at the Real Club de Tennis Barcelona by reaching the semi-finals. He led Daniil Medvedev by a break in the decider, but lost the momentum to lose 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.

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