Olympics: Marathon man Nadal in last 8, Murray survives scare
Rafael Nadal reached the Olympics quarter-finals Thursday, winning the first of 10 matches he’ll need to sweep in just four days if he is to secure triple gold as Andy Murray survived a major scare.
Nadal, the 2008 champion, defeated Gilles Simon 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 for his eighth win over the Frenchman in nine meetings.
Fourteen-time major winner Nadal is playing in his first tournament in two months after a wrist injury caused an early withdrawal from the French Open.
“I won, that’s what’s important. I’m in the quarter-finals, which is very good news,” said Nadal.
“A few days ago I wouldn’t imagine being in this position, but we have the desire and the energy high to give my best at every moment and that’s what I am doing.”
After torrential rain wiped out Wednesday’s entire program, the 30-year-old faced an epic test of his fitness and stamina.
He was heading out to Court Three later Thursday with Marc Lopez to take on Canada’s Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil with a spot in the men’s doubles final at stake.
Then, in the evening, the Spaniard readjusts his compass for his first ever mixed doubles match.
Nadal is partnering French Open champion Garbine Muguruza against Lucie Hradecka and Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic.
The Spanish star will face Brazilian number one Thomaz Bellucci for a place in the singles semi-finals.
Bellucci beat Belgian eighth seed David Goffin 7-6 (12/10), 6-4.
Murray, the second seed and bidding to be the first player to defend an Olympic singles title, came back from 3-0 down in the deciding set to defeat Italy’s Fabio Fognini.
The Wimbledon champion won 6-1, 2-6, 6-3 and will next face American 12th seed Steve Johnson who brushed aside Russia’s Evgeny Donskoy 6-1, 6-1.
But it was an uncomfortable day for the world number two who had been in complete control of the tie in the early stages.
Murray raced to a 5-0 lead in the first set and was sitting comfortably with a 2-1 advantage in the second.
Fognini has a history of upsetting the established order in tennis — last year, he sent Nadal crashing out of the US Open from two sets down.
And he was proving to be just as unpredictable on Thursday as he stretched to a 3-0 lead in the decider, having captured eight successive games.
But Murray stopped the rot, reeling off the next six games by mastering the tricky windy conditions better than his fiery opponent.
“It wasn’t a great match. The windy conditions meant it wasn’t very pretty,” said the 29-year-old who hit 48 unforced errors.
Japan’s fourth seed Kei Nishikori eased past meets Andrej Martin of Slovakia 6-2, 6-2 and awaits the winner of the tie between Gael Monfils and Marin Cilic.
Juan Martin del Potro, who put out world number one Novak Djokovic in the first round, made the last-eight with a 6-7 (4/7), 6-1, 6-2 win over Taro Daniel of Japan.
Del Potro, the 2009 US Open champion who has suffered a series of wrist injuries, will face Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut, the 10th seed, for a place in the semi-finals.
Del Potro, now ranked at 141 in the world, was a bronze medallist at the 2012 London Olympics.
The line-up for the women’s semi-finals was completed.
Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova defeated Elina Svitolina, the conqueror of defending champion and world number one Serena Williams, 6-2, 6-0 in just 48 minutes.
“It feels weird. I’m still in the tournament and I’m playing a match tomorrow and it’s about a medal and I never had this experience before,” said Kvitova who now faces Puerto Rico’s Monica Puig.
World number 34 Puig beat Germany’s Laura Siegemund 6-1, 6-1 as she continues her push to be her country’s first gold medallist.
American seventh seed Madison Keys made the semi-finals by seeing off Russia’s Daria Kasatkina 6-3, 6-1.
She will face second seed and Australian Open champion Angelique Kerber who beat Britain’s Johanna Konta 6-1, 6-2.
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