For the 16th time in a career and the second within a month, Rafael Nadal saved two match points to prevail over Denis Shapovalov in the Rome Open third round. In the Barcelona Open final, Rafa fended off a match point at 4-5 in the final set against Stefanos Tsitsipas en route to the title, his first since the last year's Roland Garros.
After the quarter-final exit in Monte Carlo and Madrid, Rafa arrived in Rome with high hopes, seeking the tenth title and battling against two young guns before the quarters. Nadal ousted Jannik Sinner 7-5, 6-4 on Wednesday night, playing aggressive tennis and coming from 4-2 down in set number two to seal the deal and set Denis Shapovalov clash.
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 today. Shapovalov wasted two match points in the deciding set's 12th game in a heartbreaking 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 loss after three hours and 27 minutes!
Speaking after the match, Denis admitted it was a tough loss to take. Shapovalov reminded that Rafa did the same many times in the past, against various rivals.
Rafael Nadal needed three and a half hours to beat Denis Shapovalov.
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 how he performed, 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 didn't 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 didn't 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, repelling them both and clinching 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. Rafa deals with pressure nicely in those pivotal moments. I'm still happy; I will not have trouble sleeping tonight," Denis Shapovalov said.