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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 May 2018

Rafael Nadal impressed with Denis Shapovalov after beating teenager at Italian Open

In match between two left-handers, Shapovalov saved eight break points in opening two service games before finally dropping serve midway through first set. Nadal won 6-4, 6-1

Rafael Nadal, right, found a strong opponent in Denis Shapovalov, whom he beat on Thursday. Dean Mouhtaropoulos / Getty Images
Rafael Nadal, right, found a strong opponent in Denis Shapovalov, whom he beat on Thursday. Dean Mouhtaropoulos / Getty Images

Seven-time champion Rafael Nadal methodically wore down Denis Shapovalov 6-4, 6-1 on Thursday to reach the Italian Open quarter-finals and gain revenge over the teenager.

Shapovalov, 19, stunned Nadal in the third round in Montreal last year to deny the Spaniard a chance to regain the No 1 spot. Nadal, also attempting to win the top spot back this week, will replace Roger Federer if he wins an eighth Rome title.

In a match between two left-handers, Shapovalov saved eight break points in his opening two service games before finally dropping his serve midway through the first set.

“He was really serving big and I had some mistakes with the return,” Nadal said. “It was not a comfortable match against a lefty who serves big and goes for his shots.

“He’s good in all aspects. The only thing he needs is a little bit more time.”

The Canadian Shapovalov was stretched to three sets in his opening two matches, against 15th-seeded Tomas Berdych and Robin Haase, and reached the semi-finals of last week’s Madrid Open.

“I didn’t feel completely dead out there but I felt like I could’ve been fresher,” Shapovalov said.

Nadal, who has not won the Italian Open since 2013, next faces Fabio Fognini, who beat Peter Gojowczyk 6-4, 6-4.

Fognini slammed his racket midway through the second set and received a warning from the umpire but otherwise held his composure to follow up his win over Dominic Thiem.

Alexander Zverev kept his title defence on track but needed eight match points to get past Briton Kyle Edmund and reach the quarter-finals.

Zverev won 7-5, 7-6 and will play ninth-seeded David Goffin, who was leading 6-2, 4-5 when Juan Martin del Potro retired because of a groin injury, for a place in the last four.

Fourth-seeded Marin Cilic defeated Benoit Paire 6-3, 6-4.

Cilic will play 10th-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta, who beat Aljaz Bedene 6-4, 6-7, 6-2.

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Read more:

Nadal and Djokovic remain on course for an Italian Open semi-final showdown

Shapovalov the new Canadian No 1 after edging Berdych in Italian Open thriller

Comment: Why Alexander Zverev will lead tennis into the post-Big Four era

Analysis: Djokovic and Sharapova are showing encouraging signs of form

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In the women’s tournament, Simona Halep’s hold on the No 1 ranking received a boost when American Madison Keys withdrew from their last-16 match due to a rib injury.

To stay in top spot, Halep needs to progress further than No 2 Caroline Wozniacki, who was facing 15th-seeded Anastasija Sevastova in a late match.

The winner will play Anett Kontaveit, who ousted 1999 winner Venus Williams 6-2, 7-6.

Halep plays US Open champion Sloane Stephens or seventh-seeded Caroline Garcia.

Svitolina beat 14th-seeded Daria Kasatkina 0-6, 6-3, 6-2. She will next face former No 1 Angelique Kerber, who routed Maria Sakkari of Greece 6-1, 6-1.