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By Richard Pagliaro | Thursday, October 15, 2015

 
Rafael Nadal

A sharp Rafael Nadal defused Milos Raonic, 6-3, 7-6 (3), scoring his first Top 10 victory since May and powering into the Shanghai Rolex Masters quarterfinals.

Photo credit: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

A sputtering Rafael Nadal arrived in Asia admitting he was short on confidence, lacking depth on his drives and questioning himself on court.

Nadal produced plenty of answers with an affirmative all-court win today.

The seventh-ranked Spaniard competed with strong self-belief and command of his twisting topspin forehand to roar into the Shanghai Rolex Masters quarterfinals.

More: Nadal Edges Karlovic in Third-Set Tie Break

Playing shrewd all-court tennis, Nadal defused Milos Raonic, 6-3, 7-6 (3), a day after edging another massive server, Ivo Karlovic, in his opener. The 14-time Grand Slam champion has won six of his seven matches during this Asian swing with his lone loss coming to world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the Beijing final.

It was Nadal's first win over a Top 10 opponent since he defeated seventh-ranked Tomas Berdych in the Madrid semifinals last May.

The 27-time Masters champion raised his Masters 1000 record to 299-62. Nadal will face reigning Roland Garros champion Stan Wawrinka for a semifinal spot. Wawrinka defeated 14th-seeded Marin Cilic, 7-5, 6-7 (7), 6-4, in two hours, 54 minutes.

Eroding confidence and an erratic forehand conspired to send Nadal on a five-match slide versus Top 10 opponents, including losing 11 consecutive sets against the elite entering today. The left-hander halted that streak hammering his forehand crosscourt into Raonic's weaker backhand wing and drilled some timely forehand strikes down the line to score the early break .

Ten of Nadal's 22 winners came from his fierce forehand wing. Scooping a running forehand winner down the line, he held at 15 for a 4-1 lead. Aggressive court positioning enabled him to move forward and finish in the front court: Nadal won 11 of 14 trips to net.

It was an intelligent performance from Nadal, who played forcing combinations, sometimes knifing the slice backhand into sharp angles to make Raonic bend low, then rushing forward to finish with the volley. Nadal wrapped up the opening set in 36 minutes.

Swatting a sitter forehand into net, Raonic faced a second break point to start the second set. The ninth-ranked Canadian saved it with a sweeping forehand winner down the line, eventually holding.

Raonic earned his first break point of the day in the second game. Nadal saved it with a slick serve and volley knocking off a high backhand volley down the line. That save set up a tremendous running forehand down the line followed by an ace as the eighth seed held for 1-all.

Snapping off successive aces, Nadal answered a Raonic love hold with one of his own for 2-all. The 14-time Grand Slam champion served 73 percent and won 70 percent (12 of 15) second-serve points.

Deadlocked at 5-5, Raonic rallied from 0-30 down snapping off an inside-out forehand followed by his ninth ace to hold for 6-5.

The Canadian opened the tie break scattering a crosscourt backhand wide gifting Nadal the mini-break. Targeting Raonic's backhand, Nadal drew a netted error for 3-0. Slashing a diagonal forehand to open the court, Nadal nudged a backhand volley down the opposite sideline extending the lead to 4-2. Hooking a forehand pass by a lunging Raonic, Nadal earned four match points.

He closed a clean one hour, 40-minute victory when Raonic put a forehand into net. Nadal committed half as many errors as Raonic (32 to 16) and did not drop serve in a high-quality victory.


 

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