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By Chris Oddo | Saturday, February 22, 2014

 

Rafael Nadal fought off two match points before finally converting on his fourth to down Pablo Andujar in a drama-filled semifinal in Rio.

Photo Source: Buda Mendes/ Getty .

It was far from vintage Rafael Nadal, but the legendary fight was present and accounted for.

And then some.

>>> Video: Nadal Converts Fourth Match Point against Andujar after Saving Two

Nadal eked by his hard-hitting compatriot Pablo Andujar, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(10), in a match that more than made up for what it lacked in quality with nail-biting drama at its conclusion.

After struggling throughout much of the affair, Nadal stood tall in the end, clinching his 49th consecutive clay-court semifinal on clay when he finally converted his fourth match point of the third-set tiebreaker.

The victory also marks Nadal's 27th consecutive victory on clay. He has not lost on the surface since falling to Novak Djokovic in Monte Carlo last April.

For Andujar, who played brilliantly all evening, he will unfortunately have to rue an ill-advised drop shot that handed Nadal a look at his ultimate match point. After saving three match points against Nadal during the tiebreaker with courageous hitting, he made the error in shot selection that left the window open for Nadal when he dumped a backhand dropper into the net at 10-10.

Though he has refused to talk up his back issues during the week in Rio, Nadal looked to be a man that had more on his mind than tennis on Saturday, as he struggled to find his rhythm and spent quite a bit of time on the defense against Andujar.

At times he struggled, looking uncharacteristically disheveled and reaching for his back (see video below), but he seemed eager to will himself on to bigger and better form.



Nadal would do just that, particularly in the third set, when he saved four break points in his first two service games of the set, and used the momentum gained to rally for what at the time looked to be a decisive break in the seventh game of the set.

But Andujar responded in kind, breaking back and playing fiery tennis to eventually force the tiebreaker.

In the tiebreaker drama would reach a fever pitch, with Nadal struggling to handle Andujar's aggression. But in the end, it was Nadal's experience and his grit that finally earned him the hard-fought battle in two hours and forty-six minutes.

In the day's first semifinal, Alexandr Dolgopolov stunned David Ferrer, 6-4, 6-4, for his fourth career top ten victory. The former World No. 13 notched his second career victory in nine tries against Ferrer, saving three of four break points on the day and serving out the match to love to reach his first final since 2012.

Dolgopolov has notched wins against clay-court gurus Nicolas Almagro, Fabio Fognini and Ferrer en route to the final.

 

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