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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Rafael Nadal relief after beating local favourite Fabio Fognini 'under pressure' at Italian Open

After losing first set, Spaniard breaks serve at start of second set and thereafter stays in control to win 4-6, 6-1, 6-2

Rafael Nadal continues his excellent run at the Italian Open. Andrew Medichini /. AP Photo
Rafael Nadal continues his excellent run at the Italian Open. Andrew Medichini /. AP Photo

Rafael Nadal stayed on track to reclaim the world No 1 ranking after recovering from a set down to defeat Fabio Fognini in the quarter-finals of the Italian Open.

With the home crowd on his side, the flamboyant Fognini threatened to cause an upset when he won the final five games of the first set after trailing 4-1.

But Nadal broke serve at the start of the second set and thereafter was always in control, with Fognini needing treatment for a left knee problem before going down 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.

"He played well, it's true I had a couple of mistakes but he played quick, going for shots without missing much," Nadal said on Sky Sports. "He put me under pressure. I should not lose two serves in a row but it happened. The only thing I can do is accept and keep working for the next set.

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"I increased a little bit the level with my forehand, it was something I needed to do. It was a great day to play tennis and a good match."

Fognini boasts three wins over Nadal in his career, including becoming the first player to beat the great Spaniard from two sets down at a grand slam tournament at the US Open in 2015.

But Nadal had won all five meetings since and, although he was rattled by Fognini's comeback in the first set, ultimately the Italian could not sustain the brilliance needed to overcome the greatest clay-courter in history.

Having lost top spot in the rankings to Roger Federer following his loss to Dominic Thiem in Madrid last week, Nadal can reclaim it by winning the title in Rome. He will next face either Novak Djokovic or Kei Nishikori.