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By Erik Gudris | Saturday, February 21, 2015

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal got past Pablo Cuevas to reach the Rio semifinals in a match that ended well into the early morning.

Photo Credit: Rio Open

Defending Rio Open champion Rafael Nadal found himself starting and finishing his quarterfinal during the early morning hours on Saturday. Despite the late start and a testing opponent, Nadal now finds himself into the final four.

Top seed Nadal and his quarterfinal opponent No. 6 seed Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay took to the court just after 1 a.m. local time due to earlier matches going longer than expected. Cuevas, ranked No. 23 and fresh off winning the Sao Paulo title last week, proved a tough challenge early for Nadal.

Each man traded early breaks, but it was an agitated at times Nadal who forced a backhand wide to give Cuevas another break for 5-4.

After four set points, Cuevas ripped a forehand winner to close out the set 6-4.

Nadal settled into the second set and stayed even with opponent by stepping forward into the baseline to take shots earlier. The defending champion then made his move while on serve at 6-5. Cuevas, now starting to look unsettled himself, played a few loose points. Nadal soon held set points and converted on his fourth one thanks to a Cuevas error.

By now the momentum was all in favor of Nadal who held easily at love to start the third set.

With the clock now past the 3.a.m. mark, Nadal got the crowd's attention when he had to change his shorts on court because he had them on backwards after changing clothes during a bathroom break. That prompted whistles and cheers from those in the stands.

Nadal, now sorted out, got a quick lead in the next game and then ripped a forehand winner past Cuevas for 2-0.

After that, it was all Nadal who took control of the match with another break of serve while Cuevas faded quickly. Cuevas would tank the final game earning boos from the crowd. With that, Nadal walked away with the 4-6, 7-5, 6-0 win.

Though still unofficially confirmed, the match was generally believed to have one of the latest ever finishes for an ATP regular tour match.

Next up for Nadal will be No. 4 seed Fabio Fognini who got through his roller coaster of a three set match against Federico Delbonis of Argentina.

Though Foginini claimed the first set, Delbonis jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the second. Fognini slowly worked his way all the back to force a tiebreak. Yet Delbonis hung on to send things into a decider.

The final set would enter another tiebreak that went back and forth between both men. Delbonis saved multiple match points against him until Fognini finally closed things out on his ninth match point. Fognini won 6-4, 6-7(10), 7-6(9).

Earlier in the day, two more three set matches decided the first semifinal.

No. 2 seed David Ferrer battled past Juan Monaco 6-3, 4-6, 6-2. Waiting in the final four will be Andreas Haider-Maurer of Austria. He beat Brazil's own Joao Sousa 7-6(4), 1-6, 6-4.


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