Kei Nishikori is back to defend his title at this week’s Barcelona Open, but he’s got some stiff competition. Rafael Nadal is the heavy 10/11 favorite to recapture the event he won eight times out of the previous nine years; Nishikori is second on the tennis odds list at 3/1
, followed by David Ferrer at 7/1. Nishikori, the 2014 US Open finalist and the No. 5-ranked men’s tennis player in the world, has already advanced to the third round at Barcelona. His star is on the rise at age 25, with four of his nine career ATP titles coming last year. In February, Nishikori successfully defended his 2014 title win in Memphis, and he was 21-5 this year in singles action heading into Barcelona. He’s 0-7 lifetime against Nadal. That could all change later this month. Nadal is having a difficult 2015 thus far, taking an 18-6 record into the Barcelona Open with just the one ATP title in Buenos Aires. The World’s No. 4 has dropped matches to the likes of No. 28 Fabio Fognini, No. 34 Fernando Verdasco, and No. 127 Michael Berrer. However, Nadal has expressed confidence in returning to form on his preferred clay surface.