Rafael Nadal battled back from a set down and saved match points to beat Denis Shapovalov 3-6 6-4 7-6(3) and reach the quarter finals of the Italian Open.
The Canadian looked on course to cause a major upset when taking the opening set and being in the ascendancy in the second, but the nine-time winner of the event rallied superbly. The final set saw both players craft chances, and it was Nadal who stood firm to secure a place in the last eight.
Shapovalov raced ahead in the first set when he took a commanding 4-1 lead and was able to hold his nerve to secure the set. Filled with confidence, Shapovalov broke Nadal at the start of the second set to give the crowd in Rome the prospect of witnessing a major shock.
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However, the obdurate Nadal then fought back to 3-3 as he refused to roll over, and he was able to secure a break to force the match into a decider.
As in the previous two sets, it was Shapovalov who made the brighter start and earned himself an early break, only for Nadal to hit back.
The Spaniard ramped up the pressure as the third set progressed. Shapovalov fended off break points in the seventh and 11th games, and he had his chance to force the win in the following game.
A couple of poor forehands from Nadal handed match points to Shapovalov but on each occasion the Spaniard held his nerve to fight them off.
And it was Shapovalov who faltered in the tiebreak. He sent down a double fault and a poor forehand to gift mini-breaks to Nadal who held firm to secure his passage to the quarter finals.
Up next for Nadal is a clash with Alexander Zverev in the quarter finals following the German’s 4-6 6-3 6-4 win over Kei Nishikori.
Nadal has a winning record against the world number six, but Zverev has won their three most recent meetings - including a straight-sets victory at the Madrid Open.
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