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Rafa Nadal and Rublev Need Three Sets in Barcelona, Tsitsipas also Advances to Quarterfinals

Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal in action against Japanese tennis player Kei Nishikori during their third round match of the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell – Conde de Godo tennis tournament in Barcelona, Spain, 22 April 2021. EPA-EFE/Alejandro Garcia



By Ricky Dimon 

Rafael Nadal was pushed to three sets for the second time in two matches at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, but an improved performance saw him through to the quarterfinals. Nadal raised his level from a second-round win over Ilya Ivashka to hold off Kei Nishikori 6-0, 2-6, 6-2 on Thursday afternoon. The 11-time champion advanced after two hours and 19 minutes.

“Kei is an amazing player, so it is an important victory for me,” Nadal assessed. “He played great after that first set, but I found a way to get through. I played much better than yesterday, so (I’m) very satisfied.”

The Spaniard is obviously a massive favorite over Cameron Norrie on Friday, but the rest of the quarterfinal lineup is shaping up to be wildly intriguing. On the bottom half of the draw, Stefanos Tsitsipas is going up against Felix Auger-Aliassime and Andrey Rublev is facing Jannik Sinner.

Tsitsipas, the Monte-Carlo champion, extended his winning streak to seven matches with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Alex de Minaur. The fifth-ranked Greek battled back from a break down in the second set to prevail in one hour and 24 minutes.

Rublev, who lost to Tsitsipas last weekend in Monte-Carlo, has been unable to find his normally dominant game this week. The seventh-ranked Russian struggled against Federico Gaio in his Barcelona opener and did the same against Albert Ramos-Vinolas on Thursday. A frustrated Rublev still got the job done 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-4 after two hours and 28 minutes.

Russia’s Andrey Rublev in action against Spain’s Albert Ramos during their third round match of the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell – Conde de Godo tennis tournament in Barcelona, Spain, 22 April 2021. EPA-EFE/Alejandro Garcia

“Nothing has changed; I didn’t learn my lessons,” the 23-year-old admitted. “The most important thing is that I managed to win today. When you’re not doing something correctly but you’re still winning matches, it gives you confidence. Albert was playing much better than me early in the third set, but you never know which way it will go.”

Sinner booked his spot in the last eight by beating Roberto Bautista Agut for the third time this season, while Auger-Aliassime dismissed fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov 6-2, 6-3.

Norrie got a second-set retirement from David Goffin and will run into Nadal for the second time this year. The Brit went down 7-5, 6-2, 7-5 in round three of the Australian Open.

Ricky contributes to10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.