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By Chris Oddo | Thursday July 30, 2015

Rafael Nadal Hamburg, 2015

Rafael Nadal was brilliant at times and scratchy at others during his straight-sets win over Jiri Vesely in Hamburg on Thursday.

Photo Source: EFE/Daniel Bockwoldt

Rafael Nadal's summer excursion in Hamburg continued with another victory on Thursday, but the king of clay had his share of struggles. In the end Nadal triumphed over the 6’6” Jiri Vesely, 6-4, 7-6(2), despite the fact that he struggled to find rhythm on the forehand and the serve.

More: All 8 Seeds Reach Gstaad Quarterfinals

Nadal squandered break leads three times in a wild, scratchy second set, but was able to come good in the tiebreaker to finish off Vesely in two hours and 11 minutes. Nadal improves his record on clay to 23-6 on the season, and sets up a quarterfinal with 5th-seeded Pablo Cuevas for Friday.

Cuevas moved past Jerzy Janowicz earlier on Thursday, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2. Simone Bolelli and Andreas Seppi were also winners.

The tone of the match was set early as neither player managed to hold serve in the first three games (there were eight break points in those three games). Nadal managed two of the breaks, and made his advantage stand up, saving a break point with a gorgeous half-volley at 5-4, 30-40, then taking the next two points to seal the opener.

It looked as if Nadal might cruise to victory but after taking the early break in set two he let his level drop. Three times he let Vesely break back to level in the set, and his serve hit a low point when he double-faulted on match point at 5-4, then double-faulted again two points later to allow Vesely a break for 5-all.

In the tiebreaker Nadal wasn’t challenged, as Vesely struggled to hit his marks, and Nadal cruised easily to close out the win.

A win it was, but it certainly wasn’t the vintage clay-court form that fans have become accustomed to seeing from the Spaniard. Nadal hit an uncharacteristically high 33 unforced errors on the day, and he was broken four times by Vesely. The Spaniard saw his first-serve velocity drop into the 80s at times, and he struggled to win points on serve, particularly in the second set.

Nadal hit some trademark winners and at times he appeared to be close to his finest form. But as has been the case all season, there were moments where he struggled with feel and missed badly.

Still, Nadal is into the quarters and will have a good shot at his biggest title of the year this weekend in Hamburg. His potential opponents in the last two rounds, should he get by Cuevas and the seeds hold, would be 4th-seeded Andreas Seppi in the semis and 8th-seeded Fabio Fognini in the final.


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