Paris: Rafael Nadal continued his quest for a maiden Paris Masters title when he survived a second set blip to beat Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3 and reach the quarter-finals on Thursday.
The Spaniard, who made sure he will end the year as world number one by reaching the third round, had to dig deep to see off Cuevas and set up a meeting with Serbian qualifier Filip Krajinovic.
Krajinovic advanced with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 win against Nicolas Mahut.
Nadal has not reached the final since losing to David Nalbandian in his first appearance 10 years ago.
Cuevas competed well in spells against a nervy Nadal, who was erratic on serve and made countless unforced errors in a gritty contest.
One of the most glaring came at 5-5 in the second-set tiebreaker, when Nadal hit an easy forehand into the net to give Cuevas a set point. After a brief rally, Nadal hit a backhand long and Cuevas leveled the match.
Nadal had some strapping under his right knee before the deciding set, then raced into a 3-0 lead before the jitters came back.
"It's not the moment to talk much about the knee," he said. He also was elusive about whether it might prevent him from playing in the season-ending ATP Finals next week in London.
"Anything can happen in one week and a half," Nadal said. "But if nothing strange happens then I'm going to be there."
Nadal was not moving with his customary speed around court in the third set but held comfortably enough for 5-2. He clinched victory on his first match point when Cuevas sent a return wide.
Nadal is guaranteed to finish the year with the top ranking for the fourth time. A maiden victory here would give him a record 31 Masters titles, one more than Novak Djokovic.
“It’s been a long year. It’s been a very successful one. (I‘m) very happy for everything,” said Nadal, who this year won the French Open and the US Open.
David Goffin was knocked out in the third round but still became the first Belgian to qualify for the season-ending Tour finals after France’s Lucas Pouille lost to American Jack Sock.
Only one spot is left for the 12-19 November eight-man event at the O2 in London and Juan Martin del Potro will clinch it if the Argentine, who defeated Dutchman Robin Haase 7-5, 6-4, reaches the last four.
The 13th seed converted all his break points against Haase to set up a meeting with John Isner. Del Potro is hoping to keep up his recent run, when he has contested two finals and a semi-final in his last three tournaments.
“It’s extra motivation to me,” said Del Potro.
“It’s going to be a good battle next round trying to qualify for London. Of course, I would love to reach London once again. It could be a fantastic moment for me. But it’s still a really hard challenge to me.”
As the season winds to a close, fatigue continued to take its toll as fifth seed Dominic Thiem and sixth seed Grigor Dimitrov were both knocked out in the third round.
Austrian Thiem lost 6-4, 6-4 to Spain’s Fernando Verdasco while Bulgarian Dimitrov fell 7-6(10), 5-7, 7-6(3) to American Isner.
Third seed Marin Cilic, however, was never in danger against Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut as the Croatian advanced with a 7-6(4), 6-2 win and next faces veteran Julien Benneteau.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Nov 03, 2017 08:48 AM