(Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)

Rafael Nadal of Spain pulled off a stunning 3/6, 6/4, 7/6 (3) victory over fellow southpaw, Denis Shapovalov of Canada, to reach the quarterfinals in his quest for a 10th title in Rome. The second seed trailed in the first two sets of a marathon that lasted three hours and 29 minutes.

Shapovalov won the toss and elected to receive. He broke Nadal’s serve in the first and third games to and held twice to lead 4-0. Nadal was taken to deuce before he held the fifth game on the third game point. Shapovalov conceded a service break and Nadal held at love for a 4-3 score. After Nadal missed an easy volley at 40-30, he saved four break points, forfeited three advantages before losing the game after the eighth deuce, for the set that lasted one hour.

Shapovalov broke Nadal’s serve and raced to 3-0 in the second set, as Nadal was not making first serves. Struggling after second serves, he took the fourth game and broke Shapovalov to win the fifth game. A deft drop shot and a drive volley earned him the sixth game and he broke Shapovalov for 4-3. It was the first time Nadal led in the match and he held his service games take the second set 6/4.

Shapovalov took the first game of the third set on his serve and broke Nadal’s serve in the fourth game to lead 3-1. However, the Canadian’s serve faltered and he conceded the fifth game while Nadal leveled three-all. Shapovalov delivered his eighth ace to win the seventh game and Nadal took the eighth game without dropping a point on his serve. The two players held serves to 5-all. Shapovalov saved three break points before clinching the eleventh game with an ace.

Serving to save the match, Nadal saved two match points before holding his serve for six-all. Shapovalov took the first point of the tiebreak, but a missed drop shot gave Nadal his first service point and the second for 2-1.

The Canadian double-faulted and lost another service point to trail 1-4. Nadal led 4-2 at changeover and held serve for 5-2. Shapovalov dropped one of his two service points to give Nadal match point at 6-3. The Spanish legend sealed the victory.

It was their fourth career meeting. Shapovalov defeated Nadal in 2017 Montreal while Nadal prevailed in a Davis Cup tie and in a previous meeting in Rome. It was Nadal’s 19th consecutive victory over left-handed players. It was his 16th match win in the third round in Rome. In the quarter-finals, he will face either Germany’s Alexander Zverev or Kei Nishikori of Japan.





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