The nine-time Rome champion Rafael Nadal had to dig deep against Denis Shapovalov in the third round, saving a match point in a 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 triumph after three hours and 27 minutes. Shapovalov saved ten out of 14 break chances and earned five breaks to push Rafa to the limits, wasting that match point at 6-5 in the decider and falling short in the tie break. The opening set lasted for almost an hour, and Denis brought it home with three breaks on his tally. The Canadian played better on both the first and second serve, playing against two break chances and converting those three opportunities to control the scoreboard. Denis had 14 winners and 11 unforced errors, dictating the pace and hoping for more of the same in set number two. Imposing his strokes right from the start, Shapovalov placed a forehand down the line winner in the opening game for an instant break at 15, gathering momentum and holding with a powerful serve for a 2-0 lead.
Nadal sprayed a massive forehand error in game three to suffer another break before sending a backhand long to push the Canadian 4-0 up after only 16 minutes! The nine-time winner held after two deuces in game five to get his name on the scoreboard and pulled one break back when Shapovalov placed a backhand wide in game six. Nadal fired a forehand down the line winner for a hold at love in game seven to reduce the deficit even more and put the pressure on Denis. After deuce in game eight, the youngster remained in front and converted the fourth set point at 5-3 to clinch the opener after Nadal’s backhand error. Shapovalov held at 15 at the beginning of the second set and blasted a forehand down the line to forge the break and move 2-0 in front. Staying focused, the Canadian defended a break chance in game three with a powerful serve and held with a backhand crosscourt winner to open a 3-0 gap.
Rafael Nadal saved a match point to beat Denis Shapovalov in Rome.
Fighting to avoid a complete disaster, Nadal saved a break point in game four and brought the game home with two winners for at least some momentum. Out of a sudden, Shapovalov netted an easy backhand in game five to suffer a break and bring Nadal back to the positive side of the scoreboard. Rafa claimed the third straight game when Denis netted another backhand in game six and moved in front for the first time thanks to a second consecutive break at 3-3. Nadal closed the eighth game with a service winner to extend his streak and secured the set with an unreturned serve at 5-4 to force a decider. After three good holds at the beginning of the final set, Nadal played a loose service game and fall 3-1 behind, having to start all over, like in set number two. Staying composed, the Spaniard pulled the break back a few minutes later to improve his chances and gain a boost. Rafa held at love in game six and looked like a player to beat in those moments.
He wasted a break chance in the next game that could have pushed him closer to the finish line before holding at 15 for 4-4. Shapovalov held after deuce in game nine, and Nadal was serving to stay in the match and avoid an early exit. Showing no sign of nerves, Rafa held at 15 with a service winner and sent the pressure to the other side. Shapovalov saved two break points in game 11 with a smash winner and Nadal’s forced error, only to experienced the third. The Canadian saved it with a service winner and brought the game home for a massive hold.
After squandering his chances, Rafa had to play against the match point in game 12, saving it after a loose backhand from his rival before facing the second thanks to Denis’ backhand winner. The Canadian sent a forehand miles away from the court, and the Spaniard brought the game home with two good serves after ten minutes! The youngster hit a double fault at 1-2 to fall behind and netted a forehand to drift away from the positive result. Rafa opened a 5-2 gap with a forehand winner and created four match points when Denis sent a forehand wide. Nadal converted the second to cross the finish line and advance into the quarter-final after an incredible battle.