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Nadal Overcomes Simon In Rome Battle

Rome, Italy

Nadal © Getty ImagesRafael Nadal faced Gilles Simon for a seventh time on Wednesday in Rome.

World No. 1 Rafael Nadal prevailed in an opening battle against Gilles Simon, claiming a 7-6(1), 6-7(4), 6-2 victory Wednesday night in the second round of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.

At three hours and 19 minutes (3:18:38), it was the longest best-of-three-sets match of the season, surpassing the duration of the Roberto Carballes Baena and Joao Sousa match in Casablanca by five minutes.

"The conditions were difficult, it was very cold and the ball didn’t bounce a lot," said Nadal. "It was a tough moment in the second set, but this was the first match on clay where I had to suffer, mentally and physically. I was not playing bad and I am happy to have dealt with that kind of anxiety.

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"I look forward to playing the third set because these are the matches that give me more satisfaction, the ones that test you very deeply. I did it and I am very happy."

The defending champion, bidding for his eighth title in Rome this week, served for the opening set at 5-4 and 6-5, before coming through in the tie-break after one hour and 11 minutes.

Nadal failed to hold onto a break lead early in the second, and needed to rally from triple break point down in the ninth game, reeling off five straight points to hold serve. He earned a match point on Simon’s serve at 6-5, 30/40, but couldn’t put away the victory as the Frenchman fought back and drew level.

Nadal regrouped to break the former World No. 6 in the opening game of the third set. Simon pegged back with a break to love in the fourth game, only to lose his next service game as the match eclipsed the three-hour mark.

The Mallorcan improves to a stellar 42-2 mark at this ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament, with his only losses coming against Juan Carlos Ferrero in his 2008 opener and against Novak Djokovic in the 2011 final.

He successfully defended his Mutua Madrid Open title last week (d. Nishikori), following quarter-final exits in Monte-Carlo (l. to Ferrer) and Barcelona (l. to Almagro).

Nadal goes on to face No. 14 seed Mikhail Youzhny, whom he leads 10-4 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series. Youzhny was up 7-5, 4-1 in his second-round match when qualifier Andrey Golubev retired with an abductor strain.

Tomas Berdych and Grigor Dimitrov will face off in the third round of a Masters 1000 tournament for a second straight week. Berdych rallied from a set down to beat the Bulgarian in Madrid, before falling to Nadal in the quarter-finals.

The sixth-seeded Czech opened with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Russian Dmitry Tursunov, while No. 12 seed Dimitrov beat Croatian Ivo Karlovic 7-6(3), 6-4.

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