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Italian Open | Gritty Nadal battles back from the brink

Nine-time champion Rafael Nadal saved two match points to defeat Canada’s Denis Shapovalov in a three-set battle and advance to the quarterfinals of the Italian Open at the Foro Italico on Thursday.

Second seed Nadal won through 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(3) after nearly 3hr 30min on court against the 13th-seeded Shapovalov. Nadal was trailing a set and 0-3 down in the second set before powering back.

Shapovalov also broke for 3-1 in the third set but Nadal broke back immediately and held on despite two match points against him in the 12th game to force a tie-break.

The Spaniard has reached his 16th last-eight appearance in Rome and a 97th ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal.

Earlier, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic swept into the quarterfinals with a straight-sets wins over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

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The five-time champion won 6-2, 6-1 in 70 minutes against the 48th-ranked Spaniard with the venue filled to 25% for the first time amid the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

The 33-year-old next plays Stefanos Tsitsipas in a rematch of last year’s French Open semifinal which the Serb won. Fifth seed Tsitsipas ended the run of home hope Matteo Berrettini 7-6(3), 6-2.

In the women’s section, World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty eased into the last eight with a straight-sets win over Russian Veronika Kudermetova.

The Australian won 6-3, 6-3 to set up a clash with US teenager Coco Gauff, who earlier ousted Madrid winner Aryna Sabalenka.


“Coco is extremely dangerous. She’s played an exceptional tournament thus far. She’s got the ability to take the game on. She’s aggressive. She can run. She can trust her legs,” said Barty.

Belarus’ Sabalenka, the World No. 4 and seventh seed, fell 7-5, 6-3 to the 17-year-old Gauff, ranked 35, who reached her fourth quarterfinal of the year.

Defending champion Simona Halep, the third seed, was forced out with a calf injury in her second round match.

The results:

Men: Third round: Novak Djokovic bt Alejandro Davidovich 6-2, 6-1; Rafael Nadal bt Denis Shapovalov 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(3); Stefanos Tsitsipas bt Matteo Berrettini 7-6(3), 6-2; Reilly Opelka bt Aslan Karatsev 7-6(6), 6-4.

Second round: Rafael Nadal bt Jannik Sinner 7-5, 6-4; Tsitsipas bt Marin Cilic 7-5, 6-2; Berrettini bt John Millman 6-4, 6-2; Andrey Rublev bt Jan-Lennard Struff 6-7(7), 6-1, 6-4; Denis Shapovalov bt Stefano Travaglia 7-6(2), 6-3.

Women: Third round: Ashleigh Barty bt Veronika Kudermetova 6-3, 6-3; Cori Gauff bt Aryna Sabalenka 7-5, 6-3; Iga Swiatek bt Barbora Krejcikova 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-5; Karolina Pliskova bt Vera Zvonareva 7-5, 6-3; Petra Martic bt Nadia Podoroska 3-6, 6-1, 6-2; Jessica Pegula bt Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-2, 6-4.

Second round: Garbine Muguruza bt Bernarda Pera 2-6, 6-0, 7-5; Angelique Kerber bt Simona Halep 1-6, 3-3 retd.; Barbora Krejcikova bt Sofia Kenin 6-1, 6-4; Iga Swiatek bt Madison Keys 7-5, 6-1.

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