Nadal moves into the quarter-finals of the Paris Masters
What's the story?
Rafael Nadal scraped past Pablo Cuevas 6-3 6-7 6-3 in the third round of the 2017 Rolex Paris Masters on Thursday.
Nadal got down to business quickly and broke Cuevas in the first set to go 3-1 up. The 31-year-old Spaniard breezed through the set after that and claimed it 6-3.
The second set, however, was much more competitive. Cuevas was broken in the third game to give Nadal the lead, but the Uruguayan bounced right back in the next game to break Nadal and get the set back on serve. Both players held serve in the following games, and forced the set to a tie-break that Cuevas snatched 7-5.
In the third set, Nadal broke Cuevas in the second game after the Uruguayan committed an unforced error at 30-30. The next few games saw the players trading breaks of serve until Nadal went up 4-2. He seemed to have finally, belatedly gained some momentum in the match and closed it out at 6-3, securing his quarter-final berth.
In case you didn't know...
Nadal defeated Chung Hyeon 7-5 6-3 in the previous round to secure his year-end World No. 1 ranking. He is the first player over 30 years of age to end the year ranked No. 1.
Pablo Cuevas, currently ranked World No. 36, played a tight three-setter in his previous match against the 29-year-old Spaniard Albert Ramos-Viñolas.
Rafael Nadal and Pablo Cuevas faced each other in Brazil last year and it was the Uruguayan who came out on top, claiming his only victory against Nadal in their five meetings to date.
The heart of the matter
Rafael Nadal certainly had to dig deep to win both against Cuevas and Chung. The Spaniard, who said he was injured after his Shanghai Masters loss to Roger Federer, appeared to have some discomfort in his right knee during the matches.
If the World No.1 is to compete at the Nitto ATP Finals next week, a title that he has never won so far, he needs to be in the best shape.
Nadal will face Filip Krajinovi? in the quarter-finals. The Serbian beat Sam Querrey and Nicolas Mahut to make the quarters.
If Nadal makes it past Krajinovi? and advances to the semis, he will face either World No. 14 John Isner or Juan Martín del Potro, who is in red-hot form.
Winning the Paris Masters, another title that he has never won before, will give Nadal the confidence he needs before stepping into the O2 Arena in London next week. However, clinching this title is not going to be easy given his injury and the challenging draw ahead.