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By Richard Pagliaro | Thursday, November 5, 2020

 
Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal saved a set point fending off Jordan Thompson 6-1, 7-6(3) to reach his fifth quarterfinal of the season at the Rolex Paris Masters.

Photo credit: Rolex Paris Masters Facebook

Hunger and humility are key qualities Rafael Nadal credits for his longevity.

A day after scoring his milestone 1,000th career match win, Nadal played with poise and persistence to keep his Rolex Paris Masters title hopes alive.

More: Olga Sharypova Details Abusive Relationship With Alexander Zverev

Nadal saved a set point at 5-6 fighting off Jordan Thompson 6-1, 7-6(3) to reach his fifth quarterfinal of the season at the Paris Indoors.

The top-seeded Spaniard will face Davis Cup teammate Pablo Carreno Busta for a trip to his fifth Rolex Paris Masters semifinal.




In a draw devoid of world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and fellow Big 3 rival Roger Federer, Nadal is aiming to advance to his first Rolex Paris Masters final since 2007 when he lost to David Nalbandian in the title match in his tournament debut.

Less than 24 hours after buddy Feliciano Lopez took him to three sets in his opener, Nadal was dialed in early in his first meeting vs. Thompson.

This match was a tale of two different sets. Nadal dominated the opening-set streaking through the final five games before the tough-minded Thompson lifted his level, served sharper and nearly surprised the king of clay in the second set.

"I think I played a good first set. A lot of good shots, good winners, serving well," Nadal said. "And then in the second, I was not able to find a way to have the break. He started to serve very well, I think, and I missed a couple of returns that I could do it better, I should do it better.

"But I think he increases a lot the level in the second set. So he played well, so I give credit to him. He started to change directions very well with the serve, hitting the right spots. Then he's super fast from the baseline, no, returning some very difficult balls."

Nadal, who cracked 16 aces in his 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 opening-round win over Lopez, won 31 of 26 first-serve points today and was firing his forehand with menacing intent throughout the opening set.

"Positive thing, I think I only faced one breakpoint with my serve during the whole match but was a set point, and a tough one," Nadal said. "So that's a positive thing, no, with my serve. And in return I think I did it very well in the first and I could do it better in the second.

"I found a way. In the tiebreak I saved a couple of breakpoints. Second point of the tiebreak had huge importance, too. So, yeah, quarterfinals, that's the most important thing for me. I'm happy."

Staring down break point, the Aussie tried to serve-and-volley, but Nadal put a biting return off his shoelaces coaxing an error to break for 3-1.

A sweeping forehand swing volley and rocket flat forehand struck while back-pedaling—two of three straight forehand winners—powered Nadal through a love hold to consolidate after 20 minutes of play.




The owner of 11 career doubles titles, Nadal’s net skills are among the smoothest of any elite player. He showed it following a drive forward and nudging a deft backhand drop volley scoring his second straight break for 5-1.

The only slight stumbling block came when Nadal served out the set and missed a few forehands to go to deuce. The top seed restored order closing in 32 minutes on the strength of a five-game surge.

Thompson kept plugging away pounding an ace down the T to hold for a 2-1 second-set lead.

The 61st-ranked Aussie showed quickness around the court, scrappiness during exchanges and a willingness to mix in the serve-and-volley on occasion staying in step throughout the second set. Thompson slid an ace down the middle holding for 5-4.

Serving to force the tiebreaker at 15-30, Nadal knifed a backhand slice down the line and attacked net. Thompson had a good look at a backhand pass but found the net instead erupting in a primal scream of anguish.




A nervous Nadal hit his third double fault to face a set point at 30-40. The longest point of the match—a 27-shot rally—ensued with Nadal nicking the back of the baseline to deny set point.

Nadal blocked a high backhand volley down the line to force the tiebreaker.

Thompson had Nadal on the run and was in position for a tough stretch volley but cut the angle too fine as his backhand found the net giving Nadal the mini break and a 3-2 lead as the Aussie bounced his racquet in disgust.

Slight breathing room helped Nadal swing more freely as he fired a flat forehand winner down the line for 4-2. Nadal thumped a smash stretching his lead to 5-2.

When Thompson netted a running forehand, Nadal had his 1,001st victory in one hour, 33 minutes.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion improved to 24-4 on the season as he seeks his first Paris Indoors title.

"I think I am not doing a lot of things bad. I just didn't play in indoors for a year almost, and is part of the process of course," Nadal said. "I need to keep going. I think these kind of matches helps. Yesterday's match, today's, tomorrow another opportunity. Yeah, these matches are important test for me to keep improving, so I really believe and hope that it's gonna help me to improve.

"I think I'm playing well. Just I think I need to win more matches on this surface."

Earlier, Daniil Medvedev rallied past 16th-seeded Aussie Alex de Minaur 5-7, 6-2, 6-2. Medvedev converted five of six break points in a one hour, 51-minute victory.

The third-seeded Russian raised his 2020 record to 20-10 setting up a rematch with Diego Schwartzman.

World No. 9 Schwartzman dismissed Spanish qualifier Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-1, 6-1 roaring into his fifth consecutive quarterfinal.




A red-hot Schwartzman has won 14 of his 17 matches over the past two months.

The rematch with Medvedev revisits bad blood that bubbled up at the ATP Cup back in January when the 2019 US Open finalist scored a three-set win in a contentious clash that saw Schwartzman call out the Russian for what he called bad behavior.

“I think he did a mistake at that time in the ATP Cup, and maybe he understand that,” Schwartzman said of Medvedev. “We have just a relation between two guys who are playing the tour. We say hello in the morning, good morning, good afternoon, and we practice for a few times after ATP Cup in Roland Garros and in a few different places. Not more than that, you know. We are different guys from different parts of the world.”

Tennis Express

Medvedev said their relationship is respectful now and has improved since the ATP Cup.

“Talking about ATP Cup if you watch the match closely, second and third set I was sometimes applauding Diego for great shots or something like this,” Medvedev said. “And of course I understand why he was angry with me and why he could be angry with me. I had my position also on this situation. But me, I have zero problems with Diego like I could maybe have with some other players. We never know.

“So with him I have zero problems. At the same time if he has problems with me, I understand it, I will not fight against it. But again, I think the relationship is going better and better.”

The fifth-ranked Russian has won all three of his meetings vs. Schwartzman.

Milos Raonic ripped 17 aces and did not face a break point overpowering American qualifier Marcos Giron 7-6(1), 6-2.

The 10th-seeded Raonic, the 2014 Paris runner-up, will take on French left-hander Ugo Humbert for a place in the final four.

Humbert hammered 19 aces and won three of four break points defeating 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic 6 -3, 6-7(4), 6-3.


 

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