Former world No. 1 and Shanghai No. 8 seed Rafael Nadal narrowly avoided an early exit on Wednesday at the Shanghai Masters, edging unseeded Ivo Karlovic 7-5, 6-7(4), 7-6(6) to move into the round of 16.
In the deciding tiebreak Nadal came up with a huge passing shot at 3-3, and finished the match with some timely put-away volleys and on match point a passing shot that Karlovic could only get a racquet frame on.
“I think I played a good match,” said Nadal. “The only negative thing was the first game of the match. The real thing is he played so well the first set, the first game, too. He played well.
“In terms of level of concentration and attitude and control of my emotions, it was a fantastic match. To win 7-6 in the third is a very important victory for me, especially because I believe in the last tie-break I did not lose a single point on my serve. That’s because I was in control again of my emotions. That’s the most important thing for me today.”
With Karlovic serving for the first set, Nadal put together this saving return game:
“”That game was so important. Probably one of the best games return in my career,” Nadal said. “Almost a miracle. Three winners from his first serve. That was really amazing.”
There was only one seeded upset on Wednesday, but many near-misses as four of the Top 10-seeded players in action in addition to Nadal needed three sets to advance.
In straight-set wins world No. 1 Novak Djokovic led the charge with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Martin Klizan, joined by No. 3 Andy Murray topping American Steve Johnson 6-2, 6-4, and No. 4 Stan Wawrinka beating Viktor Troicki 7-6(3), 6-3.
“Klizan is a very flashy player,” said Djokovic, attempting to win the Beijing-Shanghai double for the third time in his career. “I knew that coming into the court. I knew that he’s talented…I’m aware of the mental edge that I might have over a certain amount of players, and I try to use that. I try to win and do anything that is possible and necessary for me to achieve that.”
Djokovic will next face another flashy player in lefty Spaniard Feliciano Lopez.
Top 10 seeds surviving in three sets were No. 5 Tomas Berdych over American Jack Sock 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-4; No. 6 Kei Nishikori from a set down over Aussie Nick Kyrgios 1-6, 6-4, 6-4; No. 9 Milos Raonic outlasting Spaniard Roberto Bautista 6-4, 6-7(3), 7-6(5); and No. 10 Gilles Simon coming from a set down to beat Argentine Leonardo Mayer 6-7(0), 6-4, 6-2.
Raonic saved a match point against Bautista, and will next meet Nadal.
Seeds outside the Top 10 also navigated some tight matches with No. 11 Richard Gasquet outlasting Canadian Vasek Pospisil 6-4, 3-6, 6-4; No. 12 Kevin Anderson avoiding a third set with Italy’s Fabio Fognini 6-3, 7-6(1); No. 13 John Isner out-serving Belgian David Goffin 6-3, 7-6(5); and the No. 15-seeded Lopez from a set down beating Dominic Thiem 6-7(4), 7-6(6), 6-3.
No. 7 seed David Ferrer was the lone seeded casualty of the day, beaten 6-4, 6-2 by Aussie Bernard Tomic.
Highlights of Thursday’s schedule include (3) Murray vs. (13) Isner, (1) Djokovic vs. (15) Lopez, (8) Nadal vs. (9) Raonic, and (4) Wawrinka vs. (14) Marin Cilic.
“The court plays a little bit quicker during the day,” Murray said of facing Isner. “When the sun goes down and you play in the evening, it can slow the conditions down. Playing earlier makes it a little bit quicker. So breaking serve will be tougher.”
THURSDAY SHANGHAI SCHEDULE
STADIUM start 1:30 pm
 A. Murray (GBR) vs  J. Isner (USA)
Not Before 3:00 pm
 N. Djokovic (SRB) vs  F. Lopez (ESP)
Not Before 6:00 pm
 R. Nadal (ESP) vs  M. Raonic (CAN)
Not Before 8:00 pm
 G. Simon (FRA) vs  T. Berdych (CZE)
GRANDSTAND start 1:30 pm
 J. Tsonga (FRA) vs [Q] A. Ramos-Vinolas (ESP)
Not Before 3:00 pm
 K. Nishikori (JPN) vs  K. Anderson (RSA)
 M. Cilic (CRO) vs  S. Wawrinka (SUI)
Not Before 6:00 pm
 R. Gasquet (FRA) vs B. Tomic (AUS)
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