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September 21 • 01:56
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Three Hours & 38 Minutes Later: Nadal Wins

August 20, 2011
Rafael Nadal has won 10 Grand Slam singles titles, but rarely has Nadal displayed the exhilaration he did Thursday afternoon following a marathon Western & Southern Open win.

The No. 2 men's seed survived the best match of the week with a 7-6 (5), 6-7 (4), 7-6 (9) win overfellow Spanish left-hander Fernando Verdasco.

When the grueling three-hour, 38-minute match finally ended on Center Court, a joyous Nadal blasted a tennis ball high into the stands. Nadal also tossed his headband and wristbands into the crowd. Later, Nadal happily kicked some tennis balls into the stands.

"The truth is I am very happy," Nadal said. "It wasn't an easy match for me. I'm very happy I'm through to the quarterfinals."

Verdasco, ranked No. 21 in the world, fell to 0-12 lifetime against Nadal.

"You enjoy always a good match, but when you lose in this way it's not easy to lose," Verdasco said. "It can be a big win, and you're so close."

Verdasco showed early that he meant business, as he took a 3-1 lead in the first set. Both players operated mainly from the baseline and ran each other side-to-side, as both fired an array of powerful groundstrokes.

Temperatures were in the upper 80s under sunny skies on the Mason hardcourt. The crowd grew throughout the match, as spectators rushed from other courts to catch the rising drama.

When Nadal clinched the match with a drop shot, he exultantly raised his hands skyward. Verdasco, in turn, slammed his racket to the ground.

Nadal, after about a three-hour break, played a doubles match in early evening. All told, Nadal played about five hours of competitive tennis Thursday.

"I'm more tired than I would like to be," Nadal said, "but I am excited about playing (today)."

Nadal again played with blisters on his right hand, after burning it on a hot plate Monday at a local restaurant. Nadal has two fingers (index and middle) wrapped in white gauze. Although the soreness is on his non-dominant hand, it is a factor since Nadal uses a two-handed backhand.

"It's a little bit better, but it's very difficult to have feeling with the big bandages," Nadal said.

Nadal next plays No. 7 seed Mardy Fish in the quarterfinals today.

Unforced errors were among key stats. Nadal had 31 unforced errors and Verdasco had 51.

"Probably I had a little bit fewer mistakes than him," Nadal said. "In the end, one less mistake."

The match time was the longest men's three-set match on the ATP World Tour in at least two years, according to available records.

Written by Tom Groeschen tgroeschen@enquirer

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