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It took all of the three sets on offer for Rafael Nadal to defeat his Belgian rival David Goffin in three sets – 6-3 5-7 7-6(9) – in a round-of-16 epic that left him on the cusp of an exit only to rally back to win. The Spaniard had only returned to practice on Thursday after battling with another injury.
Rafael Nadal saved four match points to battle past David Goffin in an exhausting 6-3 5-7 7-6(9) win and reach the quarter-finals of the Madrid Open.
Nadal started brutally from the off, sweeping four consecutive points with his opening service game and then immediately putting pressure on Goffin.
The Spaniard moved his rival around the court, looking a little less uncomfortable than he had in his previous outing with an ankle problem, but despite forcing a break point could not go into an early two-game lead.
Goffin’s string of unforced errors kept things easy for the home favourite in the early stages, but not to the extent that he failed to keep his service game intact.
The Belgian showed his doughty qualities when he broke in the fifth game after a poor miss from Nadal.
Earlier in the game, Nadal was given a code violation warning for delays over his service which put him off his stride, and betrayed the lack of action that he has had so far this year.

However Nadal’s experience showed when he responded with a break of his own, the first of four games on the spin for the Spaniard, with Goffin crumbling under pressure to double-fault.
A poor return from Goffin in his next service game took the pressure off Nadal, who then held to take the opening set despite his struggles with the rib injury he was carrying into the tournament.
The former world No. 1 was aiming for his first Madrid Open tournament triumph since 2017 and his sixth in total, but Goffin’s lovely drop shot in the first point of the second set suggested he was far from done.
An absurdly powerful forehand down the line helped Nadal hold his first service game of the second set, before an adroit run of returns allowed him to break in what looked like the end of his opponent’s resistance.

Rafael Nadal

But Goffin, who himself started the season with an elbow injury and had returned to form after a couple of years of relative underperformance, kept in touch and saved match point at 5-4.
Moments after saving a second match point, the embattled underdog grabbed his first break point of the second set to force his chance in the match. He grabbed it up with a straining, low shot across court to haul the set back to 5-5 and then held for 6-5, before breaking again to take the set, with the Belgian now looking physically fresher.
The pair slugged it out to 4-4 in the third set, with a delightfully timed drop shot from Nadal followed up with a simple forehand miss as if to illustrate his struggles with consistency.
Both held their nerve to face off in a tie-break, with the crowd having to be repeatedly asked to stay quiet as they voiced their support for their home favourite.
Nadal raced into a 4-1 lead before a routine forehand found the net and Goffin’s fine cross-court shot, one of his finest shots of the afternoon, made it 4-3. Goffin was now in the ascendancy and whipped another angled effort as he took a 5-4, and then a 6-4 lead. Match point to the Belgian.
The momentum swung both ways, with Nadal and Goffin both blowing match points, with the Spaniard saving a fourth with a remarkably confident drop shot when the pressure was at its highest. Nadal eventually got across the line on his fourth match point, taking the tie-break 11-9, sparking triumphant celebrations to the crowd’s applause.

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