Letter from Barcelona (9): April in Barcelona, and Murray v Nadal?

Certain cities come alive at different months in the year. For Madrid it is May. In London, I’d say mid-June to early July. Edinburgh, August. New York, September. Munich, October … and so on. For me, April has always been one of the best months to be in Barcelona. The sky is bright blue and the light is just perfect. Spring has already become early summer. You can often survive without a jacket or sweater. Restaurant terraces are opening. The chiringuito beach bars are setting up. April is the month for the beautiful Sant Jordi (yesterday, April 23rd), when everyone gifts books and roses with love. Mid to late April is when FC Barcelona also normally play at home in a Champions League quarter-final (yes, it’s an annual, reliable fixture). I was very kindly invited along to see them play Juventus in the second leg last Wednesday, and although the result didn’t go as hoped, they made up for it against Real Madrid last night at the Bernabéu. Thanks to the genius Messi, it was the perfect end to a perfect Sant Jordi weekend.

During this last week of April, Barcelona also hosts the annual Trofeo Conde de Godó tennis tournament at the Reial Club de Tennis Barcelona, a sporting and social feast for the city, also known as the ‘Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell’. This year is its 65th anniversary, the oldest tennis tournament in Spain, and one of the most prestigious clay tournaments on the ATP World Tour circuit. I’ve been invited along on Wednesday and I can’t wait, especially as Andy Murray, number one in the world, is in town …

Murray was at the Reial Club de Tennis Barcelona yesterday, talking to the press, recalling the happy times he’s enjoyed in Barcelona, and where he was also coached: ‘I was here two years, two of the best of my life … I have incredible memories. Here was the first time I travelled alone, savouring what we call freedom.’ He also recalled playing here for the first time in 2012: ‘I remember it very well,’ he said. ‘This is Rafa’s tournament, but anything can happen. And we still need to reach the final match to face each other for the title.’

Rafa Nadal is on fine form, fresh from winning in Monte Carlo, and he’s looking for his tenth Barcelona crown. Nadal and Murray have played each other on 24 occasions (17-7 for Nadal), and Murray believes that doing it again would be great. His decision to come to Barcelona was very last minute. ‘I have not played many matches this year and we thought it was better to play games than to practice,’ he said. ‘And this tournament is perfect for the clay court players. I will do very well, no doubt.’

Barcelona’s perfect April month could end on another high next Sunday 30th, with a Nadal v Murray final …

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