Spanish World No. 2 Rafael Nadal needed more than three and a half hours to take out his fellow compatriot, Fernando Verdasco, in the round of 16 of the Cincinnati Masters. He defeated Verdasco 7-6 (5), 6-7 (4), 7-6 (9) in one of the longest matches in Cincinnati Masters history and the tournament so far.
Nadal was far from his fluent best as was evident in his high unforced error count. The Spaniard hit 41 errors and fired only 24 winners, while Verdasco hit 47 winners to 59 unforced errors. It took Nadal five match points to finally lay claim to the win. And at times, he seemed unable and incapable of coping with Verdasco.
In winning this match, Nadal takes his head-to-head record against Fernando Verdasco to 12-0, and the Spaniard later reflected on the win:
"The truth is that I am very happy. Very content with the victory. It was a tough match for both of us. Now, I’m looking ahead to my next round, and I hope to continue playing well here in Cincinnati."
Nadal next faces American Mardy Fish, who defeated Frenchman Richard Gasquet in straight sets 7-5, 7-5.
Fish spoke of his chances against Nadal:
"If you want to play someone like Rafa, you hope that he plays a match that's four hours long before you play him. That's as physical as it gets. It's hot out there, so I'm sure he'll be pretty tired. He's a human being.
"It's a great opportunity for me. I've never beaten him before. This is probably a surface that I would choose to play him on if I were to pick: something hot, something quick."
Elsewhere, there were wins for Serbian World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and current World No. 4 Andy Murray. The Serb blasted through Radek Stephanek 6-3, 6-3 in just under ninety minutes, Federer mauled American James Blake 6-4, 6-1 in less than an hour, while Murray defeated American Alex Bogomolov Jr. in straight sets 6-2, 7-5.
In light of Federer's, Djokovic's and Andy Murray's impressive performances, Rafael Nadal has some serious catching up to do.