Nadal beats Nalbandian to reach fourth round

Sep 4, 2011, 11:35 a.m.
Rafael Nadal of Spain lunges for a return to David Nalbandian of Argentina during their match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York, September 4, 2011. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Defending champion Rafa Nadal outbattled David Nalbandian of Argentina 7-6 6-1 7-5 Sunday to reach the fourth round of the U.S. Open.

Nadal breezed through the middle set, but was forced to fight hard on both ends of the match against his friend and frequent practice partner.

"It was a tough day," Nadal said in an on-court interview. "He's a great player, a fantastic player. He's a close friend, so all the best for him in the future."

The second-seeded Spaniard trailed 5-4 with Nalbandian serving for the opening set when he broke the Argentine's serve and forced a tie-break, which he won 7-5.

After cruising through the second set, Nadal took a medical time out during the changeover at 1-1 in the third set to have his right foot taped for a blister.

Nadal fell back in step and took a 5-2 lead, but Nalbandian roared back to make it 5-5 before the Spaniard held and broke serve on his third match point when the Argentine double faulted.

"I think I played my best match of the tournament, so I'm happy for that," said Nadal. "Every day is tougher and tougher."

Next up for Nadal will be Gilles Muller of Luxembourg, a straight sets winner against Russian Igor Kunitsyn.

(Editing by Julian Linden)

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