'Rafael Nadal is superb under pressure,' young gun recalls



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'Rafael Nadal is superb under pressure,' young gun recalls

Rafael Nadal had to work hard en route to two ATP titles last year. After saving a match point in that memorable Barcelona Open final against Stefanos Tsitsipas, the Spaniard had to dig deep versus Denis Shapovalov in Rome.

The rivals met in the third round at Foro Italico, and Rafa prevailed 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 after three hours and 27 minutes after fending off two match points! Nadal stayed on the court until 21:20 on the previous night against Jannik Sinner, and another youngster was ready to push him even harder, taking the opening set and remaining competitive until the last point.

The Canadian defeated the Spaniard as a teenager in 2017 at home in Montreal and had a massive chance to repeat that at Foro Italico four years later. Shapovalov wasted two match points in the deciding set's 12th game in a heartbreaking loss after nearly three and a half hours!

Speaking after the match, Denis admitted it was a tough loss to take. Shapovalov reminded that the situation was nothing new for Rafa, as he had done the same against many rivals in the past.

Rafael Nadal needed three and a half hours to beat Denis Shapovalov in Rome.

Praising the Spaniard, the Canadian said that Rafa played on a high level when it mattered the most to cross the finish line first.

Also, the youngster was happy with his performance, declaring he would sleep well tonight. Denis hit 40 winners and 45 unforced errors, playing brave tennis and staying in touch with Rafa in the shortest and mid-range exchanges.

Nadal did not play well in the opener, suffering three breaks and finding himself 3-0 down in set number two. Facing the elimination, Nadal claimed six of the last seven games to turn the tables and force a decider. Shapovalov earned a 3-1 advantage that did not last long, as Nadal pulled the break back to prolong the battle.

The Spaniard wasted three break chances at 5-5 before facing those two match points in game 12. He repelled them and clinched the tie break 7-3 after forcing Denis' error to avoid the earliest Rome exit since 2008. "It's a tough loss.

It's not the first time Rafa's done this, and I'm not the first person to lose after having match points against him. Rafa deals with pressure nicely in those pivotal moments. I'm still happy; I will not have trouble sleeping tonight," Denis Shapovalov said.