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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, August 18, 2017

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal reeled off five straight games stopping Albert Ramos-Vinolas, 7-6 (1), 6-2, to set up a blockbuster Cincinnati quarterfinal vs. Nick Kyrgios.

Photo credit: Western & Southern Open

Staring into the service box, Rafael Nadal transformed a love-40 hole into a launching pad to rocket through stress.

The top seed blistered charged through five consecutive games closing out compatriot Alberto Ramos-Vinolas, 7- 6 (1), 6-2, surging into his 10th quarterfinal of the season in Cincinnati.

Watch: Nadal Returns To No. 1 

The topspin forehand is Nadal’s signature shot, but it was his twisting serve that was the key stroke today.

Attacking his serve with vigor, Nadal served 70 percent, pumped seven aces and won 70 percent of his first-serve points.

Nadal is fifth on the ATP Tour in service games held (89 percent); his stubborn will to hold transformed the second set.

Facing a triple break-point hole serving at 1-2, the man in the canary-colored shirt cranked consecutive aces and an unreturnable serve to power through the problem. He did not drop another game in the match.

“(It was) very, very important,” Nadal told ESPN’s Brad Gilbert afterward. “Losing that game (would have been) 3-1 for him and then his serve.

“Saving that game gave me a lot of confidence. It was true today I was serving big through the whole match that was very important for me.”

Nadal’s work day is not through.

The victory vaults the 2013 Cincinnati champion into a blockbuster quarterfinal with Nick Kyrgios tonight.

The explosive Aussie withstood 28 aces from Croatian tower of power Ivo Karlovic in a 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-3—his fourth win over the ATP ace leader in as many meetings.

“It’s gonna be a tough one,” Nadal said of facing Kyrgios, who knocked him out of the 2014 Wimbledon. “He’s an unbelievable player. It will be a tough match. If I don’t play my best it will be impossible, so (I) just rest a little bit and hopefully be ready for tonight.”

This match was a rematch of the Monte Carlo final, which Nadal won surrendering just four games en route to one of four tournament titles this season.

Windy, sticky conditions created a scratchy start as Nadal misfired on is favored forehand at times.
Both men took the court wearing black ribbons on their shirts in tribute to the victims of yesterday’s Barcelona terrorist attack.

Pressing the Ramos-Vinolas serve for the first time in the 10th game, Nadal exploited his compatriot’s inability to land his first serve earning his first break point that was also a set point.

An aggressive second serve set up Ramos-Vinolas slap-shot forehand winner to save it. Though he struggled to land his first serve, Ramos-Vinolas wiggled out of the stress holding for 5-all when Nadal netted a slice backhand.

Bolder play helped Nadal take charge of the tie break.

Ramos-Vinolas, who had served so well throughout much of the set, scattered a jittery double-fault long as Nadal grabbed the mini break for 2-1. A mis-hit from the French Open champion fell in and Nadal took advantage surging forward to block a volley for 4-1.

Commanding the court with his forehand, Nadal jerked his opponent around the court, jolting a forehand down the line to earn five set points. When Ramos-Vinolas stuck a return into the middle of the net, Nadal collected the 59-minute first set.

"For sure (the tie break) was very, very important, especially today having two matches winning the first set was the life," Nadal told Gilbert. "I’m very happy I think I played a very good tie break.

"It was difficult, very warm, the ball is flying a lot, difficult to control the ball."

The top seed served 70 percent, won nine of 11 second-serve points and saved the only break point he faced.

Prevailing in a 20-plust shot rally Ramos-Vinolas gained break point in Nadal’s first service game of the second set, but the world No. 2 stood strong to level.

Two games later, Nadal’s forehand completely disintegrated as a flurry of forehand miscues, including one into net, gifted Ramos-Vinolas triple break point.

Slashing successive aces to erase the first two break points, Nadal fired a serve winner wide to deny the third break point.

Curling a twisting topspin forehand down the line, Nadal followed a forehand down the line thumping a high volley for 2-all.

That dramatic swing demoralized the world No. 24.

Ramos-Vinolas dumped his fourth double fault then donated the break pasting a flat forehand into the middle of the net to end a sloppy service game.

A disconsolate Ramos-Vinolas missed the mark on the baseline dropping serve again in the seventh game.

Hammering an ace out wide brought Nadal to triple match point.

On the 13th shot of the ensuring rally, Nadal crushed a forehand into the corner closing a 98-minute triumph on a five-game run.

Now, Nadal must reload against Kyrgios.


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