ROME (AP) — Rafael Nadal was pushed to three sets for the second consecutive match before ultimately prevailing on Thursday to set up an Italian Open quarterfinal against Andy Murray.
The top-ranked Nadal dropped behind a set and a break against Mikhail Youzhny of Russia, then took 11 of the final 12 games to win 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-1 on another windy day at the Foro Italico.
"Get used to (it)," Nadal said of his recent struggles. "With the years that's the normal thing. Everybody suffers. That's part of the sport."
At 27, Nadal's best days could be behind him.
"At this age, (Bjorn) Borg was doing other things," said Nadal, a 13-time Grand Slam winner. "It's not possible to win for 10 years with easy scores and easy matches. At the same time, I'm sure I can do much better than I am doing."
Nadal was looking forward to facing Murray for the first time in more than two years.
"I play against one of the top players in the world after two tough days," Nadal said. "If I play well I'm going to have my chances, if not I'm going to spend the weekend (at home) in Mallorca."
Murray eliminated Jurgen Melzer of Austria 7-6 (1), 6-4 to celebrate his 27th birthday, and Novak Djokovic fell behind 4-0 in the opening set before rallying for a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 win over Philipp Kohlschreiber.
In an upset, the seemingly ageless Tommy Haas beat third-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka 5-7, 6-2, 6-3.
On the women's side, Maria Sharapova's 12-match winning streak — which included titles in Stuttgart and Madrid — ended with a 6-1, 6-4 loss to Ana Ivanovic.
Showing no signs of trouble from the left thigh injury that forced her to withdraw from Madrid, defending champion Serena Williams cruised past fellow American Varvara Lepchenko 6-1, 6-2.
Pushed for three hours by Gilles Simon to nearly midnight a day earlier, Nadal didn't generate the usual depth with his groundstrokes, and began to take control only when Youzhny started committing more unforced errors.
"The conditions were very impossible," said Nadal, a seven-time Rome champion. "You always have to find the positive thing. I was able to play with the right motivation even if the feeling was not perfect."
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