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Real’s Champions League heroics ‘inspire’ Nadal into Madrid quarters

MADRID (AFP) – Rafael Nadal said on Thursday he drew inspiration from Real Madrid’s heroic comeback against Manchester City less than 24 hours previously as he survived a scare from David Goffin, saving four match points en route to a tight 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (11/9) victory in the Madrid Open.

The win kept alive Nadal’s quest for a record-extending sixth title in the Spanish capital and earned him a spot in the quarter-finals, where he faces his compatriot Carlos Alcaraz.

Seventh seed Alcaraz celebrated his 19th birthday with a battling 6-4, 6-7(4/7), 6-3 over British world number 11 Cameron Norrie.

On Wednesday, Real scored in extra time to stun City 3-1 to set up a Champions League final with Liverpool later this month.

Nadal, a 21-time major champion, was contesting just his second match after a six-week break due to a rib injury and rebounded from tricky moments during his showdown with Goffin, who has a career-high ranking of seventh but is currently down to 60 in the world.

Rafael Nadal returns the ball during a match. PHOTO: AFP

Nadal had to recover from an early break before clinching a 46-minute opening set.

The Spanish third seed held two match points and served for the second set but was stretched to a third by Goffin.

In the deciding-set tie-break, Nadal saved four match points, hitting clutch drop shots on two of them, before he finally moved into a record-extending 99th ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final and his 16th in Madrid.

“Yesterday has been an unforgettable night. The spirit that the Real Madrid team have is just incredible and for me today in some way has been an inspiration,” said the 35-year-old, who attended the game at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Nadal is 2-0 against Alcaraz, having defeated the teen phenom in Madrid last year and at Indian Wells in March. “I think that today, he is better than me and he has a good dynamic, a good momentum,” Nadal said of Alcaraz, who is riding a seven-match winning streak that includes a title run in Barcelona.