ROME: Rafael Nadal booked a spot into his 16th quarter-final at the Italian Open in dramatic fashion, having to save match points and rally from a set down in a three-and-a-half hour epic against 13th seed Denis Shapovalov yesterday.
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. 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.
The victory extends Nadal’s record to 19 wins in a row against fellow left-handed players – a streak dating back to the 2017 Coupe Rogers in Montreal, when 18-year-old Shapovalov defeated Nadal in their first meeting.
Into a record-extending 97th quarter-final at the ATP Masters 1000 level, second seed Nadal will playMutua Madrid Open champion Alexander Zverev, who battled past former World No. 4 Kei Nishikori in three sets. The German has won three consecutive matches against Nadal, including a straight-sets victory last week at the Caja Magica.
Also reaching the quarter-finals was 6-foot-11 (2.11-meter) American Reilly Opelka, who eliminated Karatsev, an Australian Open semi-finalist, 7-6 (6), 6-4.
Opelka served 18 aces to record his third consecutive straight-set win this week – after entering Rome on a six-match losing streak that included dealing with a bout of Covid-19. He has yet to drop his serve this week.
Opelka next faces Argentine qualifier Federico Delbonis, who beat Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6 (3), 6-1.
In the women’s tournament, top-ranked Ash Barty beat Veronika Kudermetova 6-3, 6-3 and will next face American teenager Coco Gauff, who defeated Madrid champion Aryna Sabalenka 7-5, 6-3. French Open champion Iga Swiatek beat Barbora Krejcikova 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-5.