Kei Nishikori has become the first Japanese man to win the Barcelona Open, after defeating Santiago Giraldo in the final on Sunday.
It was a comfortable 6-2, 6-2 victory for the world number 17, with 19 winners helping him power his way past his Colombian opponent.
World number 65 Giraldo came into the match as an underdog, though he had pulled off an unexpected victory in the semi-finals when he knocked out sixth-seeded Spaniard Nicolas Almagro 7-5, 6-3, who had knocked out world number one and reigning champion Rafael Nadal in the quarter-finals.
Nishikori had only dropped one set on his way to the final, and convincing wins over Marin Cilic and Ernests Gulbis in the previous two rounds would have given him confidence.
The 24-year-old showed only one sign of losing his recent form when his serve was broken early on in the first set, though Giraldo was disgruntled by a line call from the chair umpire soon after, and he then conceded the break back when serving a double fault.
Nishikori, seeded fourth for the tournament, then went on to win eight straight games to seal the first set and take early control of the second.
He was clinical in taking chances, as he converted five out of seven break points that came his way, while Giraldo served five double faults, and the match was sealed in the eighth game of the second set after Nishikori managed to save a break point and serve his way to victory.
Nishikori thinks his success can help him to achieve his goal of making it into the top 10 of the world rankings.
"I was playing well," he told reporters. "I felt I should be in the final and I'm very happy to win.
"This title and Miami helped my confidence, especially this week on clay. There are three big tournaments coming up in Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros so I hope I can do well and increase my (ranking) points. My next goal is to get to the top 10.”
His win secured his fifth ATP tour title, and his first on clay, which follows on from his tournament win in Memphis in February earlier this year, and he feels confident playing on the red dirt.
He said: "I was good on clay when I was little. 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."
The Japanese number one has carried over the promising form from the Miami Masters in March, where he reached the semi-finals before pulling out of the tournament with a groin injury before he was due to face Novak Djokovic.
Not only is he the first Japanese man to win the tournament at the Real Club de Tenis, but he is also the first non-Spaniard to take home the title since Argentine Gaston Gaudio was the victor in 2002, with Nadal winning it eight times in that period.
Giraldo is still searching for his first ATP singles title, though his run in Barcelona has seen him reach the first ATP tour final of his career.
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