Thursday, 18 August 2011

Rafael Nadal - Fights His Way Into the Quarter Final

Rafael Nadal came through a testing collision with compatriot Fernando Verdasco to advance to the quarter-finals of the Western & Southern Open, but he still looks a long way short of the form that led him to last year's US Open crown.

Nadal has stuttered through the year of 2011, losing his world No. 1 ranking to Novak Djokovic, who also stole the Spaniard's Wimbledon championship. A shock exit to Ivan Dodig at last week's Rogers Cup hinted that Nadal is scratching around for his best form, and he needed three hours and 37 minutes before he concluded a 7-6(5) 6-7(4) 7-6(9) victory over Verdasco on Thursday.

The warning signs were there from the start as Nadal conceded two breaks in the opening set. He answered with two of his own but then fell 5-3 behind in the tiebreaker, only to be saved by his steely resolve as he hit back to take it 7-5.

Verdasco had never beaten Nadal in 11 previous attempts, losing the last 10 sets played between the two players. He avoided a straight sets loss this time as he began to dictate to Nadal, whose trademark fizz just is not evident at the moment.

Forcing another breaker, Verdasco took control, this time succeeding in bringing up set point. Nadal's footwork was poor as he chipped the ball into the middle of the court, and from there Verdasco picked his shots to press the match into a decider.

The underdog had previously never been past the third round of the competition, but he was ready to fight as he fended off early break points on his opening service game of the third set. In the fifth game Verdasco then created 0-40 on the Nadal serve, converting his third break point to stun the Cincinnati crowd.

The turning point arrived in the very next game for Nadal though who, when locked at deuce, produced an incredible defensive rearguard action to set up a break-back chance, which he duly took en route to one final tiebreaker. The Spaniard raced into a 5-1 lead in the breaker, only to then concede four straight points. He eventually closed it out 11-9 with his fifth match point to set up a clash with Mardy Fish, who beat Richard Gasquet 7-5 7-5.
Tomas Berdych awaits Roger Federer in the last eight after he disposed of clay-court specialist Nicolas Almagro in straight sets. Berdych, who beat Federer at Wimbledon in 2010, needed just 64 minutes for a 6-2 6-2 victory.


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