Rafael Nadal’s preparations for the French Open continued to run smoothly as he defeated Jack Sock 6-3, 6-4 to reach the last eight of the Italian Open, including a breathtaking shot in the opening set.
At 2-0 up, with advantage in his favour, Nadal brought a 17-shot rally to a successful end as he stretched low to his right to whip a double-handed shot cross court beyond his American opponent, much to the astonishment of the crowd.
Despite being stretched wide at both sides of the court as Sock seemingly had Nadal for the taking, the Spaniard somehow rescued the point from the brink of defeat with a scintillating double-hand forehand to move 3-0 up.
An injury-plagued period means Nadal’s last Grand Slam success was his 2014 French Open win, but the 30-year-old, who was runner-up to Roger Federer at the first Major of the season in Australia, is in fine form this time around.
The French Open campaign will see Nadal bid for a 15th Grand Slam title and fears over form and fitness have been quashed by impressive displays on his favoured clay court surface in recent months, with his physical and mental agility having been tested.
Nadal, who parted company with uncle and former coach Toni Nadal ahead of the 2017 season, is now under the tutelage of former World No 1 and fellow countryman Carlos Moya, a switch which is evidently reaping rewards.
Victory over Sock at Foro Italico extended Nadal’s winning streak to 17 matches, including consecutive tournament wins on clay in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, and Madrid as he prepares for Roland Garros in less than two weeks.
Next up for the nine-time French Open champion is a quarter-final draw against Dominic Thiem, who was beaten by Nadal in the Madrid last week.
You can watch the incredible rally in the video below.
Fourth seed Nadal said: "I am here to try my best. I know it is a tough tournament. “I don't have an easy draw here, a tough one.
“Dominic is the player that is having probably more success now on clay, no? So will be another tough battle tomorrow.”
Thiem also beat an American in Sam Querry, eventually prevailing 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(7) to reach the last eight stage of the Italian Open.
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