Defending champion Rafael Nadal endured a three-set thriller before overcoming big-hitting Latvian qualifier Ernests Gulbis 1-6, 7-5, 6-4 on Thursday to reach the Rome Masters quarterfinals.
Gulbis, ranked 46th, saved two match points in the third set, but finally went down when he sent a forehand wide to the massive relief of a dancing, celebrating Nadal.
The Spaniard now stands 6-0 against Gulbis as he bids for a seventh Rome title.
Top seed Novak Djokovic played without ankle pain in a routine 6-1, 6-4 victory over Alexandr Dolgopolov for a quarterfinal place at the Rome Masters on Thursday, and then spared a thought for the injured Andy Murray.
Djokovic dispatched Dolgopolov in an hour, with five aces and 13 winners, in a contest which began 45 minutes late due to rain in the morning.
The two-time Rome champion will play Czech Tomas Berdych, a 7-5, 6-2 winner over South Africa’s Kevin Anderson, in the last eight.
Djokovic said he was sorry to hear about Murray’s injury. “That is not the kind of news you want on your birthday,” he said of Murray, one week his elder, who turned 26 on Wednesday. “It would be a pity if he doesn’t play.”
In the women’s draw, unseeded two-time Foro Italico champion Jelena Jankovic upset 2011 Roland Garros winner Li Na, the Chinese fifth seed, 7-6(2), 7-5.
Italian seventh seed Sara Errani advanced to the quarterfinals as Russian Maria Kirilenko quit with a knee injury while trailing 6-3, 2-0.
The results (third round):
Women: Simona Halep bt Roberta Vinci 6-4, 6-2; Carla Suarez Navarro bt Lourdes Dominguez Lino 6-2, 6-3; Jelena Jankovic bt Li Na 7-6(2), 7-5; Sara Errani bt Maria Kirilenko 6-3, 2-0, retd.
Men: Marcel Granollers bt Jeremy Chardy 6-4, 1-6, 7-5; David Ferrer bt Philipp Kohlschreiber walkover; Rafael Nadal bt Ernests Gulbis 1-6, 7-5, 6-4.
Novak Djokovic bt Alexandr Dolgopolov 6-1, 6-4; Tomas Berdych bt Kevin Anderson 7-5, 6-2; Benoit Paire bt Juan Martin del Potro 6-4, 7-6(3).
Doubles: Mahesh Bhupathi & Rohan Bopanna bt Dominic Inglot & Jonathan Marray 6-2, 6-3. — AFP