3/14/13 12:46 PM | Cheryl Murray
Rafael Nadal, who was still trying to power through rust, managed to just edge out on-fire Latvian Ernests Gulbis in a come-from-behind victory.
It was rough going for the first set, but world No. 5 Rafael Nadal eventually prevailed in a tight third set to defeat Ernests Gulbis 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.
Nadal was not the better player for at least half of this match. Gulbis played the role of aggressor while Nadal struggle to find his rhythm on the cement after just one match on hard courts in nearly a year. The Spaniard's path to the fourth round was marked by one match because a first-round bye and a walkover from Leonardo Mayer in the third round.
The rust showed in the first set. Gulbis clearly dominated while Nadal scrambled around the baseline and donated unforced errors to the Gulbis cause. The result was a commanding lead for the Latvian and left Nadal with work to do.
With his groundstrokes still not up to par, Nadal relied on his mental toughness to get him back in the match in the second set. It was a tactic that the Spaniard hasn't employed since his return to the game a month ago, but it was effective as it has ever been. He leveled the match at a set apiece and went into the third set ready to do battle.
Both men played entertaining tennis in the third. Gublis seemed to be in more of Nadal's service games than the other way around, but the Spaniard managed to hold each time. In the end, it was Gublis who showed some frayed nerves at the tail end of the match and Nadal pulled out the stops in Gulbis' last service game to get the match-winning break of serve.
Nadal's win sets up a showdown with Roger Federer in the quarterfinals.
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