Last week, Rafael Nadal saved two match points against Denis Shapovalov in the third round en route to his tenth Rome Open title. Fifteen years ago, the Spaniard was in a similar situation on his Rome debut, fending off two match points in that epic final against Roger Federer.
Asked to compare those two matches, Rafa said that's impossible, considering how important that 2006 final was. Also, the Spaniard revealed it has to be his favorite triumph from a match point down. In that outstanding 2006 Rome title match - the best match of all time for many - Nadal needed five hours and five minutes to oust Federer 6-7(0), 7-6(5), 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(5) and defend the title in Rome, with both players giving their 120% from start to finish.
The Spaniard was already one of the most efficient clay-courters ever at 19. However, Roger entered this final with positive vibes after pushing Rafa to the limits in Monte Carlo a month earlier, ready to make another strong challenge in Rome and fight for the title he was missing.
The Swiss was on level terms with the Spaniard and had a massive chance to steal the triumph, leading 4-1 in the final set and squandering two match points on the return in the 12th game and a 5-3 lead in the deciding tie break!
As always, Nadal refused to surrender and overcame all the obstacles to win one of the most important matches of his career and lift already the sixth Masters 1000 title, all before turning 20!
Rafael Nadal saved match points in two memorable Rome Open matches.
Last week, the Spaniard took down Denis Shapovalov 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 after saving two match points in the deciding set's 12th game.
Denis blasted over 40 winners and stayed in touch with the king of clay in the shortest and mid-range exchanges to come close to the finish line. Still, Nadal returned from a 6-3, 3-0, 40-30 deficit, keeping his composure and stealing the second set to prolong the action.
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 playing against those two match points at 5-6. Rafa saved those and sealed the deal in the tie break to advance into the quarters, beating three more rivals to lift the tenth Rome Open trophy.
"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.