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Tennis: Nadal squeezes past Murray in epic Rome quarter-final

World number one Rafael Nadal dug deep to maintain his chances of defending his Rome Masters title after a gutsy come-from-behind 1-6, 6-3, 7-5 win over Andy Murray in the quarter-finals on Friday.

ROME: World number one Rafael Nadal dug deep to maintain his chances of defending his Rome Masters title after a gutsy come-from-behind 1-6, 6-3, 7-5 win over Andy Murray in the quarter-finals on 
Friday.

Murray had won only five of his last 18 matches against Nadal but held the bragging rights from their last two -- a walkover win in the semis of the Miami Masters and victory in the final of the Tokyo Open in 2011, both hardcourt events.

And despite doubts lingering over the Scot's form following an absence from the tour due to back surgery at the start of the year, Murray produced a stunning performance at the Foro Italico to underline his form ahead of the French Open later this month.

The Scot raced to a 6-1 win in the opening set, leaving clay-court kind Nadal to tinker with tactics in the second set in a bid to pull level.

In a much tighter third set, Nadal maintained his momentum by winning three breaks to two for Murray.

The Spaniard broke in the first game, only for Murray to break back immediately in a second game which saw the Scot pull off a stunning pull-back shot which stunned Nadal and had the crowd in raptures.

That gave Murray some momentum of his own and the British number one held serve to go 2-1 in front.

Both players held serve in the next two games and with the score at 3-2 Murray raced to triple break point to break again and take a two-game lead after Nadal netted a return from a powerful serve. 

Sensing defeat, the Spaniard upped his game and broke back to level at 4-4.

Both players held serve over the next two games, but Nadal made the difference when he raced to triple break point in the 11th game before breaking for a third time in the set for a 6-5 lead and then serving out for the win.

Nadal will now meet Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov in the semis on Saturday, when number two seed Novak Djokovic faces Canada's Milos Raonic.

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