Rafael Nadal saves match points to deny Denis Shapovalov

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

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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.

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