Nadal digs deep to move into Madrid Open quarters

MADRID: Rafael Nadal saved four match points to beat Belgian David Goffin 6-3 5-7 7-6(9) in an enthralling match on Thursday and move into the Madrid Open quarter-finals. Just as his beloved Real Madrid came back from the brink to reach the Champions League soccer final on Wednesday, 35-year-old Nadal found extra energy in reserve to win a lengthy tiebreak and secure the 1,050th win of his career.

Uncharacteristic errors and double faults from third seed Nadal allowed Goffin to break first and go 3-2 up in the opening set but the Spaniard quickly broke back twice to serve out the set, sealing it with a venomous crosscourt forehand winner.

Nadal’s stroke-making became more confident in the second set as he used every corner of the court to pepper winners past Goffin, who had no answer and constantly looked up to the heavens in despair. But the experienced Belgian eventually found his range and played with more authority as he rallied from 3-5 down, breaking twice to force a third set.

Playing only his second match after returning from a rib injury, Nadal looked rusty as he let his advantage slip when Goffin saved two match points in the second set, much to the shock of the home fans at the Manolo Santana Stadium. There was nothing to separate the two in the third set that went to an absorbing tiebreak, where Goffin initially bounced back from 4-1 down to nearly clinch victory before Nadal prevailed in just over three hours.

Nadal will play either his compatriot Carlos Alcaraz or Briton Cameron Norrie in the next round. Earlier, defending champion Alexander Zverev moved into the quarter-finals after Lorenzo Musetti was forced to retire due to a thigh injury when he was down 6-3 1-0.

The Italian had called for the trainer between sets but could not continue. Sixth seed Andrey Rublev dispatched Dan Evans with a 7-6(7) 7-5 victory over the Briton after recovering from a slow start and the Russian will face fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who beat Grigor Dimitrov 6-3 6-4. Top seed Novak Djokovic earned a day of rest after his last-16 opponent Andy Murray pulled out due to illness. The Serb will next face Hubert Hurkacz who defeated Dusan Lajovic 7-5 6-3.