World number 1 Rafael Nadal scored his 67th victory of the season and 345th at Masters 1000 level overall after a hard-fought battle against Pablo Cuevas, prevailing by 6-3 6-7 6-3 in 2 hours and 20 minutes. Thus, he advanced to the quarter-final of Paris for the 6th time in as many comings to the French capital (he never won a title here), and he will face a qualifier Filip Krajinovic tomorrow.
This was their 5th meeting and the 4th win for Nadal, who had issues with his right knee, and we will see how serious they are. It was a solid match overall, with both players giving their best, especially from Cuevas who should be pleased with the way he performed.
Almost nothing could separate the rivals in the shortest and longest points but Nadal had a slight advantage in the mid-range rallies, despite hitting a lot of unforced errors. Spaniard hit unexpected 7 double faults and his second serve was under the pressure, playing against 5 break points and losing serve twice.
Cuevas fired 11 aces and he defended the second serve well, ad the only problem for him was the first serve percentage, that stayed at 54%, otherwise, he could have faced fewer break points. Nadal earned 10 break points and he scored 4 breaks, which was enough to prevail in 3 sets and move into the last 8.
The first set was decided in the 4th game when Cuevas landed a forehand long to lose his serve, and Nadal clinched the set with a service winner in game 9. They traded breaks in games 3 and 4 of the second set and both players served well in the rest of the set to set up a tie break, where Nadal had a 4-2 lead.
Pablo pulled the mini-break back in the 7th point with a backhand winner at the net, and another good backhand gave him a 6-5 lead. Nadal lost the next point as well to hand the tie break to his rival and the match went into a decider after an hour and a half.
There were 8 break points in total in the last part of the match and Rafa grabbed the advantage with a backhand down the line winner in game 2, with 2 more break points in game 4. Cuevas managed to save them and he broke back in game 5 thanks to a backhand winner, reducing the deficit to 3-2 for a more drama.
Nadal stayed focused and he scored a crucial break in game 6, opening up a 4-2 lead and sealing the deal with a good hold in game 9 to reach the quarters. 35-year-old Julien Benneteau is playing his last Paris Masters, and he wants to stay in the event as long as possible, advancing to his first Masters 1000 quarter-final with a 6-3 6-3 win over David Goffin in just 67 minutes! They have met at the US Open as well when Goffin prevailed in 4 sets, but it was everything about Benneteau today, who fired 14 aces and losing just 4 points behind his first serve.
David served at only 51% and he lost 43% of the points in his games, having to play against 8 break points and dropping serve 4 times. On the other hand, the veteran faced just 3 break chances and he saved 2 to limit the damage and keep the upper hand all the time.
It was a shaky first set for both, with 10 break points in total, and Julien broke his rival 3 times in a row to bring it home by 6-3. He broke in the 5th game when Goffin sent a backhand long and again in game 7 after a huge error from the Belgian, who couldn't find his shots so far.
The 7th seed pulled one break back in game 8 but he netted a forehand in the following game to lose serve again, and the set by 6-3. The second part of the match was more fluid and there were 8 good holds and one loose game for Goffin that decided the winner.
He made more errors in game 2, suffering the 4th straight break of serve, and Benneteau served well in the rest of the set to bring the match home, celebrating the last 8 appearance when David netted another forehand in game 9.
Julien had 24 winners and 20 unforced errors while Goffin stood on a negative 15-23 ratio, losing the majority of the shortest points, that decided the winner. Third round results: