Rafael Nadal came to last year's Rome Masters 1000 event eager to go further than in Madrid, where he lost in the quarter-final. The Spaniard had to work hard to pass the opening rounds at Foro Italico and reach the last eight.
He defeated Jannik Sinner 7-5, 6-4 in the second round after being a break down three times. Rafa was challenged even harder in the following encounter, battling against Denis Shapovalov for almost three and a half hours. The Spaniard prevailed 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 after fending off two match points in the deciding set's 12th game.
He survived all the obstacles to find himself in the quarters and avoid the season's third early Masters 1000 loss. Nadal won five points more than Shapovalov, wasting ten out of 14 break chances and suffering five breaks that almost cost him the match after trailing 6-3, 3-0, 40-30!
Denis fired over 40 winners and tried to keep the points on his tally, pushing Rafa to the limits and staying in touch with a great rival in the shortest and mid-range exchanges. After a terrible start, Rafa climbed back in the second set's second part, trailing again in the decider before making one last push that kept him alive.
Denis survived three break chances at 5-5 in the final set and created those two match points in the next game. He squandered them and lost the tie break 7-3 to propel Rafa through. After the match, Nadal said that he had to keep his head clear, spraying too many errors from his racquet but not losing the mental strength to remain positive and keep fighting until the end.
Rafael Nadal saved two match points against Denis Shapovalov in Rome.
"I choose to fight and keep the fighting spirit and determination. Many errors were coming from my racquet, and I at least tried to keep my head clear.
This is sport, and you always have to fight until the end. It's worth all the effort if you score only one win like this every season. It was a significant victory for me; it gave me confidence, although I knew I had to do better.
There were many long games, and I had to fight hard to reach the quarters. I hope I can get ready for that match; the main thing is to recover physically, and we will see how I wake up. These encounters are always challenging, as you have to play the next day again. Rome is a significant tournament for me, and I'm going day by day," Rafael Nadal said.