© Manuel Queimadelos/ATP Tour

Rafael Nadal celebrates during his win over Kei Nishikori on Thursday.

Nadal: 'I Need Time On Court'

The World No. 3 is embracing three-set matches in Barcelona

After winning two three-setters in a row to reach the quarter-finals of the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, Rafael Nadal is embracing the battle.

“Matches like today, like yesterday help the improvement,” the 11-time Barcelona champion said. “At the same time, I didn’t play tough matches for a long time, so winning two matches like this I really hope this gives me extra confidence.”

In his opener at the ATP 500, Nadal beat Ilya Ivashka 3-6, 6-2, 6-4, and on Thursday, he fought past Kei Nishikori 6-0, 2-6, 6-2. It's the first time in history that Nadal has played back-to-back three-set matches in Barcelona. 

“So the past three matches that I played were three sets and I don’t take something negative [from that],” Nadal said. “For me it’s something very positive. I need time on court, I need to go through these moments and the past two matches I went through these moments with a victory. Tomorrow is another opportunity. I’m excited to keep playing and [have] another chance to play better.”

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In Monte-Carlo last week, Nadal fell to Andrey Rublev in the quarter-finals 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.

“I think my serve is evolving the right way,” Nadal said. “Of course when you play a very bad day like I did against Rublev in Monte-Carlo with my serve you need some time, but I am feeling that my serve is evolving the right way. I served better than yesterday today and in important moments I had a couple of good serves." 

The World No. 3 dug deep in the final set against Nishikori, winning five points in a row after going down 0/40 in the first game and saving 5/5 break points.  

“For me it was clear that I needed something else,” Nadal said. “In the second set and the beginning of the third he was playing very clean, hitting the right spots and with a very high quality of ball. So it was difficult to stop him, so I needed something else and I think I did. I played a little bit more aggressive, changed a little bit the pace and the direction of the ball.” 

Nishikori is currently ranked No. 39 in the FedEx ATP Rankings but has been as high as No. 4 and is a two-time champion in Barcelona (2014 and 2015).

“I think Kei played a great level of tennis after that first set,” Nadal said. “It was a very tough match, anything could happen. Everybody knows that Kei, when he’s playing like what he did later today in the last two sets, his ranking is much higher.”

Nadal is 63-4 in Barcelona and chasing a record-setting 12th crown. He will play Cameron Norrie for a place in the semi-finals.

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