Nadal Hangs Tough Against Isner

Eight-time champion Rafael Nadal reached the quarter-finals of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters after prevailing over No. 15 seed John Isner, 7-6(6), 4-6, 6-3, on Thursday.

The third seed saved two set points to clinch the first set in the tie-break. The American stormed back in the second set, recovering from 0-40 on his serve to hold and then break to go up 5-4 before eventually forcing a third set.

As the World No. 1 doubles team, Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan, looked on, Nadal broke Isner in the third and quickly consolidated at love for a 4-1 lead. He went on to serve out victory in two hours and 20 minutes.

“It was very important the way I played the third set,” said Nadal. “My mentality I think in the third was very positive. The game, the level of tennis, improved a little bit in the third than in the previous two sets. That’s very important for me. Very happy to be in the quarter-finals. Very important result for me.

“It’s very difficult to play against John. You play under a lot of pressure all of the time. I think at the beginning I played little bit too much behind the baseline. I think he had the chance to go for the winners too many times, something that didn’t happen in the third. The third, my position was a little bit closer to the baseline, having more control of the point with my forehand. That’s the most important thing for my game on any surface, but especially here on clay.”

The 28 year old has a 52-3 record at this ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay-court tournament, winning eight successive titles from 2005-12. His 46-match winning run was ended by Novak Djokovic in the 2013 final and last year he was beaten in the quarter-finals by David Ferrer.

The Mallorcan is bidding for his second ATP World Tour title of the season, after victory on the clay in Buenos Aires (d. Monaco).

Nadal will face Ferrer in the quarter-finals once again after the fifth seed finished strongly to defeat Gilles Simon 6-2, 6-7(3), 6-1 in two hours and 33 minutes in the last match of the day.

Nadal leads his head-to-head with Ferrer 22-6, but the pair have split their past four meetings.

“It’s always a big challenge play against David,” said Nadal. “Even when you are playing your best, he is a big challenge. Tomorrow will not be an exception. With the moment that I am today, it will be a very good test I think. He’s one of the players that has won more matches this year, so he is confident. He is playing well. He is one of the best players of the world. Is a good challenge for me. I’m excited to play that match tomorrow.”

The 33-year-old Ferrer has a 24-3 record on the season, highlighted by winning three ATP World Tour titles in Doha, Rio de Janeiro and Acapulco. The right-hander finished runner-up in Monte-Carlo in 2011 (l. to Nadal).

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