A moment of genius from Rafael Nadal has left tennis fans stunned during the Spaniard's second round win at the Barcelona Open.
The 'King of Clay' needed to go the distance for the second successive day in Barcelona, before beating Japan's Kei Nishikori to make the last-eight of the tournament in his homeland.
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The 6-0, 2-6, 6-2 win over 2014 and 2015 champion Nishikori means the World No.3 remains on track for an astonishing 12th Barcelona title.
Nadal - who next faces Britain's Cameron Norrie for a place in the semi-finals - suffered a surprise quarter-final exit at the Monte Carlo Masters last week.
He also required three sets to beat Belarusian qualifier Ilya Ivashka, ranked at 111, in his opening match in Barcelona earlier in the week.
While Nadal again looked some way off his all-conquering best on his favoured clay, the 20-time grand slam champion showed flashes of pure genius.
There was perhaps no better example of what Nadal is capable of than a jaw-dropping point against Nishikori in the first set, when the Spaniard was 3-0 up and 30-30.
As one commentator explained, the Japanese star looked to have won the point on two separate occasions only for Nadal to somehow manage to stay alive in the rally.
The 34-year-old eventually claimed the point thanks to a miraculous sliding forehand winner that left viewers scrambling for superlatives.
"You have got to be kidding me," one commentator exclaimed as Nadal's forehand pass left Nishikori stunned.
"Nishikori actually won the point twice, but still lost it," the caller added in disbelief.
The remarkable piece of "sorcery" left fans awestruck on social media.
Former world number four Nishikori, now down at 39 in the rankings, was left to regret converting just two of 13 break points carved out against the man who also beat him in the 2016 Barcelona final.
"I think I played much better than yesterday; that's a very important thing for me," Nadal said on court after his 12th win in 14 meetings with Nishikori.
"The level of positive energy was higher, so I'm very satisfied."
World number 58 Norrie progressed when Belgian eighth seed David Goffin retired with a right leg injury in the second set.
Nadal beat Norrie in their only previous meeting in straight sets in the Australian Open third round in February.
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Second seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, the champion in Monte Carlo, eased into the last-eight with a 7-5, 6-3 victory Australian 14th seed Alex de Minaur.
After his seventh straight match victory had earned him a quarter-final place, Tsitsipas accepted that he'd really been given a test and paid a warm tribute to the fighting spirit of the 22-year-old Sydneysider.
"Alex was competing for every ball, running left, right, getting every single ball back, playing close to the line, so it was definitely difficult," said the 22-year-old, who has won his last 13 sets in competitive action.
"Alex is a good competitor, always puts out his best game. Running and getting an extra ball back is actually his biggest strength and it always makes him very difficult to play against.
"But I found ways to go through and qualify for the next round, which was important to me."
Tsitsipas next faces 11th seeded Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime who got the better of compatriot Denis Shapovalov 6-2, 6-3.
"I was happy with my level today," said Auger-Aliassime.
"It's never easy to play against him and it's great to have won in straight sets. The next match won't be easy, a tough challenge."
Russian third seed Andrey Rublev, the runner-up to Tsitsipas in Monte Carlo, claimed a 6-4, 6-7 (4/7), 6-4 victory over Spain's Albert Ramos-Vinolas in two and a half hours.
Rublev, who has a tour-leading 26 wins in 2021, fired 35 winners past the Spanish clay-courter.
He has an intriguing quarter-final against red-hot Italian teenager and 11th seed Jannik Sinner who beat fifth seed Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6 (11/9), 6-2.
It was Sinner's third win over the veteran Spaniard this year.
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