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By Chris Oddo | Thursday, April 16, 2015

Rafa Nadal, Monte-Carlo 2015

Rafael Nadal battled past John Isner in a tight three-setter to reach the Monte-Carlo quarterfinals for the eleventh consecutive year.

Photo Source: Julian Finney/Getty

Rafael Nadal dropped a set before the quarterfinals of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters for the first time since 2003, but he quickly regained his footing to down rocket-serving American John Isner, 7-6(6), 4-6, 6-3, to book his spot in the last eight.

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Isner, who was the first player to ever push the unconquerable Nadal to a deciding fifth set at Roland Garros in 2011, had his chances to notch the improbable win against the Spaniard on this day, but his failure to convert two break points in the fourth game of the opening set and his inability to cash in on two set points in the ensuing first-set tiebreaker made the mountain too high for Isner to climb.

Nadal, seeking confidence in just this type of match, rattled through four consecutive points from 4-6 down to claim the first-set tiebreaker. It wasn’t so much what he did in the tiebreaker, but what he didn’t do. He held his ground while Isner committed two errors to squander the set points, then seized the moment to take the set.

But Isner, who hammered 12 aces and didn’t face a break point until the third set, would win the battle of nerves in the second set. He wiggled his way out of a triple break point scenario, winning five straight points imperiously to lead 5-4, then laced a forehand winner in the next game to earn a break point.

He would cash in, breaking for the set when a Nadal forehand landed well long.

In the third set Nadal would take command. He exploded into his trademark inside-out forehand, tattooing it for a clean winner and a service break for a 3-1 lead, and held his ground the rest of the way.

Nadal was dominant on serve when he needed to be, taking 20 of 23 service points in the third set to book his spot in the quarterfinals for the eleventh consecutive time in the Principality.

Nadal improves to 51-3 lifetime at Monte-Carlo, and 16-4 on the season.

In other round of 16 action, Tomas Berdych booked a quarterfinal slot with a straight-sets win over Roberto Bautista Agut. In seven events this season, Berdych has reached the quarterfinals of all seven.

Other winners on Thursday in Monte-Carlo were Milos Raonic, who edged Tommy Robredo, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, and Marin Cilic, who took down Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 6-3, 7-6(5). <


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