Rafael Nadal claimed the tenth Rome Open title on Sunday, beating Novak Djokovic in three sets. Rafa survived a major scare against Denis Shapovalov in the third round in an even more challenging encounter, prevailing 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 after saving two match points in the deciding set's 12th game.
Denis threw everything he had at Rafa, firing over 40 winners and staying in touch with the king of clay in the shortest and mid-range exchanges. Still, Nadal came back from 6-3, 3-0, 40-30 down, remaining composed and stealing the second set to prolong the match and his chances.
The Canadian was a break in front in the final set before the Spaniard erased the deficit, wasting his opportunities on the return at 5-5 and repelling those two match points at 5-6 to stay alive and seal the deal in the tie break.
It was Nadal's 16th victory after saving at least one match point, showing his well-known fighting spirit and refusing to surrender until the very last point. Rafa stated that it was an essential match for his confidence ahead of Roland Garros, proclaiming it was worth of effort if you can score only one similar victory during the season.
Rafael Nadal shared thoughts about a hard-fought victory over Denis Shapovalov.
"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. Without a doubt, it was a significant victory for me; it gives me a lot of confidence, although I know I have 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 types of encounters are always challenging, as you have to play the next day again.
Rome is a very important tournament for me, and I'm going day by day. I can't think about Roland Garros at the moment, although I should have my chances if I come well prepared. It's impossible to compare this match with the 2006 Rome final against Roger Federer.
That was the final, and this is the third round. I think I never won a Major from saving a match point, and if I have to pick the favorite match when I did that, it was the one against Roger here 15 years ago," Rafael Nadal said.