Rafael Nadal saves match points to deny Denis Shapovalov

Rafael Nadal saved two match points during his thrilling comeback win over Denis Shapovalov

Rafael Nadal saved match points against Denis Shapovalov

Rafael Nadal saved match points and rallied from a set down in a three-and-a-half hour epic against 13th seed Denis Shapovalov on Thursday to book a spot in the quarterfinal of Rome Masters.

The nine-time champion trailed by 0-4 in the opening set, 0-3 in the second and saved two match points late in the third set as Shapovalov took control in their third-round clash on Campo Centrale.

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But Nadal was clutch in the high-pressure moments and steadily raised his level to secure the 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(3) victory for a spot in the last eight.

“[It] is an important victory for me [to] be able to win matches like today, three hours and 27 [minutes], in the Barcelona final three hours and 38 [minutes], long matches,” said Nadal.

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“To be able to win these kinds of matches against young players gives me confidence with my body. It’s true that I have to do things better for tomorrow. But the main thing today for me is [to] recover physically.”

Into a record-extending 97th quarter-final at the ATP Masters 1000 level, second seed Nadal will play Madrid Open champion Alexander Zverev, who battled past Kei Nishikori in three sets.

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The German has won three consecutive matches against Nadal, including a straight-sets victory last week at the Caja Magica.

Thiem knocked out

Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego knocked out fourth seed Dominic Thiem 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-6(5) to reach the quarter-finals.

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“It’s amazing, an unbelievably emotional moment for me because I’m in Rome, in my Italy with fans for two sets,” Sonego said in his on-court interview. “I’m so happy for this victory, for this match. Thiem is with Nadal the best player on clay.”

Sonego entered the match 1-6 against Top 10 opponents, with his lone victory coming in straight sets last year against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in Vienna.

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However, the home favourite looked full of belief at the Foro Italico, eliminating the reigning US Open champion after a marathon that lasted three hours and 24 minutes.