Rafael Nadal has now gone the distance in his last three matches on clay. Today in Barcelona, the 1-time champion Nadal was pushed to three sets by 2-time tournament winner Kei Nishikori 6-0, 2-6, 6-2.
Nadal, who now leads Nishikori 11-2, rolled in brisk 30-minute opener but Nishikori retaliated in the second, breaking Nadal twice to force the finale.
Nadal was down 0-40 in his opening service game before winning five straight points for a huge hold and a momentum halter. Then he broke Nishikori for 3-1 and sealed the win.
“I think I played much better than yesterday, that’s a very important thing for me,” Nadal told the crowd. “The level of positive energy higher, so very satisfied.”
After three set matches against Andrey Rublev, Ilya Ivashka and today against Nishikori, Nadal will hope tomorrow’s quarterfinal will be more straightforward against Cameron Norrie who earned a retirement win over David Goffin who had a right leg injury at 6-0, 3-5.
Stefanos Tsitsipas improved to 7-0 on clay this year easing past Alex De Minaur 7-5, 6-3.
“I was playing close to the lines so that was definitely difficult,” Tsitsipas said. “He’s a good competitor; he always puts out his best game. I think running and getting an extra ball back is actually his biggest strength so that’s what makes him very difficult to play against.”
Tsitsipas, who hasn’t dropped a set this year on the dirt, will now face Felix Auger-Aliassime. FAA won the battle of Canada beating Denis Shapovalov 6-3, 6-2.
Tsitsipas and Auger-Aliassime have split four previous meetings, but have never played on clay.
“He’s someone that has done very well in recent years and playing at the top of his form right now,” Tsitsipas said. “I’m looking forward to the next battle, to the next difficulty that’s set, and can’t wait to compete against Felix.”
Rublev kept pace with a tough 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-4 victory over Albert Ramos Vinolas. Rublev wasn’t pleased with his play.
“The most important thing is that I managed to win today,” Rublev said. “When you’re not doing something correctly, but you’re still winning matches, it gives you confidence. Albert was playing much better than me early in the third set, but you never know which way it will go.”
He’ll now meet new star Jannik Sinner who was a winner over Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6(9), 6-2.
Diego Schwartzman and Pablo Carreno Busta also meet tomorrow in the quarterfinals.
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