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Nadal scrapes past Goffin in thriller to reach Madrid quarter-finals

The five-time champion will play either Carlos Alcaraz or Cameron Norrie in the last eight

Rafael Nadal Madrid 2022 AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Mutua Madrid Open | Draw Order of play

Rafael Nadal was pushed to the absolute limit at the Madrid Masters on Thursday as he scrambled past David Goffin in a dramatic final-set tiebreaker to reach the quarter-finals.

The five-time champion had two match points in the second set and then had to save four match points himself before finally clinching a 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (9) victory after three hours, 10 minutes, sealing the win when Goffin pulled a forehand just wide of the sideline.

Nadal said watching his beloved Real Madrid come from behind to beat Manchester City in the Champions League inside the Bernabeu stadium on Wednesday night had helped him get over the line.

“Yesterday was an unforgettable night, the spirit that Real Madrid team has is just incredible,” he said. “For me today, in some ways it was an inspiration, like the way I have been fighting my whole career.

“It was a very tough match, David played at a very high level but at the same time I am not completely happy because I had to win that match in straight sets, no doubt. But winning a match like this, three hours, is good.”

The No 2 seed, who has still lost just once this year, will now play either rising Spanish star Carlos Alcaraz or Britain’s Cameron Norrie in the last eight. It’s his 99th Masters 1000 quarter-final.

Nadal could and should have won the match much earlier; after missing a match point at 5-3 on the Goffin serve, he had another on his own serve but couldn’t close it out and Goffin took advantage, raising his game to force a third and then push the 35-year-old all the way to a final-set tiebreak.

With four wins out of six against Goffin – all four on clay – Nadal was made to work hard early on, the two men swapping service breaks to 3-3 in the opening set.

But Nadal, who won his record 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open earlier this year, broke serve for 5-3 and served out for the opening set.

An early break in the second seemed to have put Nadal in total command but world No 60 Goffin, working his way back up after some difficult times, kept in touch and saved one match point on his own serve at 3-5 before saving another at 4-5 and breaking back to level with a brilliant backhand volley.

Suddenly the match changed and Goffin rode the momentum to break again and force a decider.

Nadal had a chance to break in the opening game of the third but Goffin saved it and the Belgian was making life much more difficult, improving his serve and taking the attack to the Spaniard.

It was only Nadal’s serve that kept him going in the third set – and his fighting qualities – as he held serve twice to stay in the match.

Nadal stormed ahead 4-1 in the deciding tiebreak but Goffin won five straight points to lead 6-4. Nadal saved the first and then Goffin blinked, netting a forehand on the second.

The Belgian forced a third match point, which Nadal saved with his first drop shot of the match and after the Spaniard could not take his third match point, he saved a fourth with another great drop shot.

Nadal forced a fourth match point and Goffin pulled a forehand wide to hand the Spaniard victory after three hours, 10 minutes of intense battle.

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