World number five Kei Nishikori is eyeing hat-trick of Barcelona Open titles after beating Spain’s Pablo Andujar 6-4 6-4 on Sunday.
The reigning champion recovered after being immediately broken by his 29-year-old opponent, who had accounted for Fabio Fognini and David Ferrer earlier in the tournament.
Nishikori, 26, has now won nine ATP World Tour titles and is already looking forward to returning to the Catalonian capital in 12 months’ time.
The 2014 US Open runner-up said: “I’m very happy. It was one of the best tournaments so far this year. I always love playing here. I hope I can come back next year.”
Nishikori beat Santiago Giraldo 6-2 6-2 in the 2014 final but he was made to work harder by Andujar on the clay at the Real Club de Tenis Barcelona.
Should he go on to make it three wins in a row, Nishikori would emulate Rafael Nadal who reigned at the Barcelona Open in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
The Majorcan was also top dog in the tournament from 2005-2009 but went out in the third round to Fognini this time around.
The next Grand Slam event on the calendar is the French Open at Roland Garros which starts on May 25.
Nishikori is 19.00 to win the French Open, with world number one Novak Djokovic 1.95 to take the title for the first time. Nadal is 2.88 to make it 10 wins at Roland Garros having first won the French Open in 2005.