Nadal Edges Karlovic In Thriller

Spaniard survives to set Raonic clash

Rafael Nadal survived a nerve-jangling second-round contest with Ivo Karlovic on Wednesday evening at the Shanghai Rolex Masters, advancing to the third round with a 7-5, 6-7(4), 7-6(4) victory in two hours and 44 minutes.

The Spaniard rallied from a 3-5 deficit in the opening set, including producing a stunning succession of hot shot returns to break the famed Karlovic serve in the 10th game, to take the lead. But the Croat hit back, sneaking the second set tie-break to send the match into a decider. Neither player blinked until another tie-break, when Karlovic double-faulted at 4-4. It proved decisive as Nadal reeled off the final two points, claiming his fifth win in five meetings with the 36-year-old Karlovic.

Karlovic, who recently overtook Goran Ivanisevic to set the record for aces hit during his career, added 24 more, taking his total to 10,289. But it was not enough to discourage the spirited Nadal, who produced an array of superb returns and passing shot winners to claim his 50th win of the season.

Reflecting on the crucial service break in the first set, Nadal said, "That game was so important. Probably one of the best games return in my career. Almost a miracle. Three winners from his first serve. That was really amazing.

"I think I played a good match," continued the Manacor native. "The only negative thing was the first game of the match. The real thing is he played so well the first set, the first game, too. He played well.

"In terms of level of concentration and attitude and control of my emotions, it was a fantastic match. To win 7-6 in the third is a very important victory for me, especially because I believe in the last tie-break I did not lose a single point on my serve. That's because I was in control again of my emotions. That's the most important thing for me today." 

The left-hander is coming off a runner-up showing at the China Open in Beijing, where he lost in the final to Novak Djokovic. He reached the Shanghai final in 2009, losing out to Nikolay Davydenko.

Nadal will next face Milos Raonic, who saved a match point as he battled past Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 6-7(3), 7-6(5) in two hours and 36 minutes. The ninth-seeded Canadian was down 30/40 on serve at 4-5 in the deciding set, but held on to force a tie-break. The Toronto native squandered an initial 5-1 lead in the breaker as Bautista Agut levelled at 5-5, but Raonic clinched the last two points to prevail.

The 24-year-old Raonic, whose season has been hindered by a foot injury, is looking to mount a late charge to secure one of the four remaining berths at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, where he made his debut last year. The right-hander is currently 13th in the Emirates ATP Race To London.

In another late-finishing contest, 15th seed Feliciano Lopez defeated Dominic Thiem 6-7(4), 7-6(6), 6-3 in two hours and 19 minutes. It was Lopez’s first victory over the 22-year-old Austrian, who had won their past three meetings. The left-hander saved nine of the 10 break points he faced and struck 16 aces.

Lopez goes on to challenge World No. 1 Djokovic on Thursday. The Madrid native will be looking to overturn a 0-6 FedEx ATP Head2Head deficit. They met most recently in the US Open quarter-finals, with Djokovic prevailing in four close sets.

Matkowski/Zimonjic Edge Aussie Tandem

In doubles action, Marcin Matkowski and Nenad Zimonjic needed a Match Tie-break to get past young Australians Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic 6-7(4), 6-4, 10-8 on Wednesday. The No. 3 seeds were down 3/6 in the decider, but won seven of the last nine points of the match to move on in 74 minutes.

Facing the Polish-Serbian duo in the quarter-finals will be Raven Klaasen and Marcelo Melo. The No. 6 seeds are coming off a title in Tokyo last week and won their opening match in straight sets (d. Anderson/Chardy).


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