Rafael Nadal defeats Pablo Cuevas to advance to Rio Open semifinals
RIO DE JANIERO -- There's nothing like a Friday night in Rio.
No. 3 Rafael Nadal advanced to the semifinals of the Rio Open by defeating No. 23 Pablo Cuevas 4-6, 7-5, 6-0 in a match that finished at 3:18 a.m BST (12:18 a.m. ET). The match fell just short of eclipsing the ATP's latest ever finish, which came in 2006 when Benjamin Becker beat Jiri Novak at the Tokyo Open six minutes later.
Nadal's comeback win capped off a grueling day of tennis in Rio, which saw all five matches on Centre Court go three sets. Play began at 1:00 p.m with top seed Sara Errani saving match points to outlast Brazilian qualifier Beatriz Haddad Maia, winning 3-6, 7-6 (2), 3-0 after Maia was forced to retire due to cramps. No. 2 seed David Ferrer followed and needed more than two hours to beat Juan Monaco 6-3, 4-6, 6-2. Next up: Andreas Haider-Maurer who battled from a break down in the third set to beat Joao Souza 7-6 (4), 1-6, 6-4 in two hours and 21 minutes.
But the match of the day came when No. 4 seed Fabio Fognini took the court against Federico Delbonis. Delbonis saved nine match points before Fognini was able to close out the match well after midnight, winning 6-4, 6-7 (10), 7-6 (9) in three hours and 13 minutes.
Nadal and Cuevas took the court just after 1:00 a.m. The champion here last year, Nadal struggled to find his rhythm. He hit 12 winners to 14 unforced errors in the first two sets but was able to turn things around in the final frame, finishing with 18 winners to 16 unforced errors.
Cuevas did well to stay with Nadal through a set and a half before giving up the key break late in the second set and went away completely in the third. Cuevas hit 10 winners to five unforced errors in the first set, but finished with 19 winners and 24 unforced errors for the match. The loss snapped his 32-match win-streak on clay.
Not that the day wasn't without its moments of levity. After taking the second set, Nadal realized he had been wearing his shorts backward. Much to the crowd's delight he eschewed a trip to the restroom and opted to change his shorts on court. He didn't lose a game after the change. Was it really all about the shorts?
Watch Nadal's hasty switch below:
It will be a quick turnaround for Nadal. He'll play Fognini on Saturday night after Ferrer and Haider-Maurer play the first men's semifinal at 5:00 p.m. BST. The women's semifinals feature Anna Schmiedlova vs. Irina-Camelia Begu, followed by Errani vs. Johanna Larsson.