'Can't believe it': Tennis world stunned by 'insane' Rafa Nadal drama

Rafael Nadal and Denis Shapovalov, pictured here after their match at the Italian Open.
Rafael Nadal and Denis Shapovalov embrace at the net after their match at the Italian Open. (Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP via Getty Images)

Rafael Nadal has completed one of the most extraordinary comebacks of his career, saving two match points to beat Denis Shapovalov in Rome.

Nadal won 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) after nearly 3 hours and 30 minutes on court against the 13th-seeded Shapovalov at the Italian Open on Thursday.

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Nadal roared back from 3-0 down in the second set and then saved two match points on his serve at 6-5 in the third.

"That's why he's won so many matches on clay," Shapovalov said.

"It's not the first time Rafa's done this. I'm not the first person to lose with match points.

"He does well with the pressure in those moments."

Nadal, who will be aiming for a record-extending 14th French Open title next month, was also pushed at times in a straight-sets win over 19-year-old Jannik Sinner that ended late on Wednesday.

"To be able to win these kind of matches against young players give me confidence with my body," Nadal said.

The tennis world was left gobsmacked by Nadal's 'insane' comeback.

The Spaniard, a nine-time champion in Rome, will next face Alexander Zverev, who beat him in Madrid last week.

Zverev also survived a scare before the sixth seed got past Japan's Kei Nishikori 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in just under three hours.

Nadal will be making his 16th last-eight appearance in Rome. It will also be his 97th ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final.

Zverev, 24, was also apprehensive after a tough week on clay.

"I think last week and now this match for me is going to catch up tomorrow," he said.

"At the end of the day, he's one of the biggest competitors in the world and I'm going to try to be one myself tomorrow."

Rafael Nadal, pictured here celebrating during his match against Denis Shapovalov.
Rafael Nadal celebrates during his match against Denis Shapovalov. (Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP via Getty Images)

Novak Djokovic progresses to quarter-finals

Earlier, top-ranked Novak Djokovic beat Spanish rising star Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-2 6-1 win to set up a last-eight meeting with Stefanos Tsitsipas, who eliminated Matteo Berrettini 7-6 (7-3) 6-2.

"It's going to be a battle," said Djokovic, who has reached the quarter-finals in each of his 15 Rome appearances.

Also reaching the quarter-finals was 2.11-metre Reilly Opelka, the American who eliminated Aslan Karatsev, the surprise Australian Open semi-finalist, 7-6 (8-6) 6-4.

Opelka, who served 18 aces and has yet to drop his serve in three matches this week, next faces Argentine qualifier Federico Delbonis, who beat Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-6 (7-3) 6-1.

And Italy's Lorenzo Sonego kept home hopes alive by ousting fourth-seeded Austrian Dominic Thiem in a marathon three-set battle.

with agencies

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