MADRID: Rafael Nadal said on Thursday he drew inspiration from Real Madrid’s heroic comeback against Manchester City less than 24 hours previously as he survived a scare from David Goffin, saving four match points en route to a tight 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (11/9) victory in the Madrid Open.
The win kept alive Nadal’s quest for a record-extending sixth title in the Spanish capital and earned him a spot in the quarterfinals, where he faces his compatriot Carlos Alcaraz.
Seventh seed Alcaraz celebrated his 19th birthday with a battling 6-4, 6-7(4/7), 6-3 over British world No. 11 Cameron Norrie.
On Wednesday, Real scored in extra time to stun City 3-1 to set up a Champions League final with Liverpool later this month.
Nadal, a 21-time major champion, was contesting just his second match after a six-week break due to a rib injury and rebounded from tricky moments during his showdown with Goffin, who has a career-high ranking of seventh but is currently down to 60 in the world.
Nadal had to recover from an early break before clinching a 46-minute opening set.
The Spanish third seed held two match points and served for the second set but was stretched to a third by Goffin.
In the deciding-set tie-break, Nadal saved four match points, hitting clutch drop shots on two of them, before he finally moved into a record-extending 99th ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal and his 16th in Madrid.
“Yesterday has been an unforgettable night. The spirit that the Real Madrid team have is just incredible and for me today in some way has been an inspiration,” said the 35-year-old, who attended the game at the Santiago Bernabeu.
“I think David played at such a high level but at the same time I’m not completely happy because I think I had to finish the match in straight sets without a doubt.”
Nadal is 2-0 against Alcaraz, having defeated the teen phenom in Madrid last year and at Indian Wells in March.
“I think that today, he is better than me and he has a good dynamic, a good momentum,” Nadal said of Alcaraz, who is riding a seven-match winning streak that includes a title run in Barcelona.
“I’m clear who, from the beginning, has some kind of advantage in tomorrow’s match. But in that regard, I will try to do as much as possible to be competitive.”
Earlier, former world No. 1 Andy Murray was forced to pull out of his last-16 match against Djokovic, citing food poisoning.
It would have been the 37th meeting between Murray and current world number one Djokovic, but the first since they played each other in the Doha final in January 2017.
Djokovic, a three-time champion in Madrid, now moves directly into a quarterfinal against Polish 12th seed Hubert Hurkacz, who knocked out Serbian qualifier Dusan Lajovic 7-5, 6-3.
Sixth seed Andrey Rublev reached the seventh Masters 1000 quarter-final of his career with a 7-6 (9/7), 7-5 result against Dan Evans of Britain.
Rublev said it has been a “stressful” tournament for him so far, despite arriving to the Spanish capital fresh from a title run in Belgrade.
“I’m going on court thinking for sure today I’m going to do everything and I will be calm and then I’m doing really stupid and easy mistakes that make no sense,” said Rublev.
“Then I manage somehow to calm down and at the end starts these roller coasters.”
In the last eight, Rublev will face Stefanos Tsitsipas, who downed Grigor Dimitrov 6-3, 6-4.
Defending champion Alexander Zverev also punched his ticket to the quarterfinals after his opponent Lorenzo Musetti retired from their match in the second set with a left thigh injury.
In the women’s event, eighth seed Ons Jabeur advanced to the biggest final of her career with an impressive 6-2, 6-3 victory over Ekaterina Alexandrova.
The Tunisian followed up wins against Olympic champion Belinda Bencic and former world No. 1 Simona Halep with just her second success in eight meetings with Alexandrova to move into a maiden WTA 1000 final.
“It was a very emotional match. For those who don’t know, I have a 1-6 record against her. So it was a tough match mentally,” said Jabeur.
“But I’m glad that I pulled the win today. I played really good, I was ready for the right moments and hopefully I can continue playing at this level for the final.”
Jabeur awaits the winner of the semi-inal between American 12th seed Jessica Pegula and Swiss lefthander Jil Teichmann.