• Rome Masters

Nadal survives thriller against Simon

ESPN staff
May 14, 2014
Rafael Nadal had a match point in the second set © Getty Images

Defending champion Rafael Nadal survived a thrilling encounter against Gilles Simon to reach the last 16 of the Rome Masters with a 7-6(1) 6-7(4) 6-2 victory.

The world No.1, who has won in Rome a record seven times, was given a stern test by Simon, but managed to come through unscathed to win in three hours and 19 minutes.

Nadal, who lifted the title in Madrid last Sunday, was in control of the first set at 4-2 and 5-3 in front. However, Simon hit back to level at 5-5.

Nadal, though, broke the Frenchman in the 11th game to serve for the set for a second time at 6-5 up, but once again he failed to do so as Simon forced a tiebreak.

But Nadal dominated the tiebreak from start to finish as the Spaniard took six successive points to storm to the set.

A pigeon briefly halted play in the second game in the second set, but it did not prevent Nadal from racing into a 3-0 lead.

Simon refused to lie down as he won the following three games to make it 3-3.

Nadal squandered match point at 6-5 in front and allowed Simon to take the encounter into a second tiebreak.

Simon produced a series of fine winners to win five of the first seven points in the tiebreak, before winning the set after Nadal hit the net.

Nadal made the better start in the third and final set by going 2-0 in front. However, Simon once again fought back and made it 2-2.

Simon's hard work was undone in the fifth game as Nadal broke for 3-2 following great defensive play from behind the baseline.

A cross-court forehand winner set up two further break points for Nadal in the seventh game. The game soon followed after Simon's shot went out.

And serving for the match at 5-2 up in the decider, Nadal made no mistake to clinch victory and book his place in the last 16.

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