It would seem Rafa Nadal is slowly getting his eye in as he came through his third consecutive three setter in five matches since opening his European clay court campaign last week in Monte Carlo.
I think I played much better than yesterday, that’s a very important thing for me Rafa Nadal
On this occasion at the Barcelona Open where he is top seed, the 11-time champion was pushed by Japan’s Kei Nishikori, another former champion, 6-0 2-6 6-2 to reach the quarter finals of the ATP 500 event.
AS the score line indicates, it didn’t all go te way of the Mallorcan, despite a very quick start which saw him pocket the first set within 30-minutes as Nishikori immediately struck back in the second, breaking the King of Clay twice to level at a set-all.
For a brief moment it looked as if Nishikori could maintain that momentum as he pushed Nadal in the opening game of the decider to hold three break points but Badal was able to dig deep and produce five straight winning points to save the situation and go on to break the Japanese star for 3-1 to stamp his authority on the match.
“I think I played much better than yesterday, that’s a very important thing for me,” Nadal told the crowd in his on court interview. “The level of positive energy higher, so very satisfied.”
Nadal now faces the British No.2, Cameron Norrie in the quarter-finals who progressed when Belgium’s David Goffin retired with a right leg injury in the second when trailin 6-0 3-5.
The second seed and Monte Carlo Masters champion, Stefanos Tsitsipas improved his record on clay to 7-0 when he eased past Australia’s Ales 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 Canada’s fast rising star Felix Auger-Aliassime who won the battle of Canuks when he beat Denis Shapovalov, the seventh seed, 6-3 6-2.
Tsitsipas and Auger-Aliassime, seeded 10, have split four previous meetings but have never met on clay.
“He’s someone that has done very well in recent years and playing at the top of his form right now,” Tsitsipas pointed out. “I’m looking forward to the next battle, to the next difficulty that’s set, and can’t wait to compete against Felix.”
Andrey Rublev, the third seed from Russia and the player who ousted Nadal out of Monte Carlo at the quarter-final stage last week, kept on course with a tough 6-4 6-7(4) 6-4 victory over pain’s Albert Ramos Vinolas and admitted after his victory, that he wasn’t happy with his performance.
“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.”
The Russian now meet the new teenage star from Italy, Jannik Sinner who defeated another Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6(9) 6-2.
Also through to the last eight where they will meet following straight forward straight set wins are Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman and Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta.
Meanwhile Fabio Fognini who was defaulted on Wednesday for the first time in his career, has confirmed he will be appealing the decision.
The reason for the default is not clear and TV cameras have not been able to confirm any ‘incident’ leading pundits to conclude that the Italian must have actually said something to the umpire which provoked the decision.
Fognini however, maintains he was ‘calm’ and that he behaved himself and has confirmed he will not drop te matter until the whole affair is clarified.
“Hello everyone, I wanted to inform you about the disqualification subjected yesterday on 4-4 of the second set in the match against Zapata Miralles,” Fabio Fognini said on Instagram.
“On the field I could not do anything other than accept the decision taken by the tournament supervisor.
“But I want closure that that decision is incorrect and penalty, the supervisor’s report is incomplete and does not correspond to reality and, for this reason, I have decided to appeal for this reason.”
More will no doubt follow.