Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal both overcame scares to book a place in the quarterfinals of the Rome Masters. Now, on Friday, the two superstars of tennis will clash in what promises to be a mouth-watering quarterfinal.
Every tournament that Djokovic enters nowadays, he is expected to win, and that too rather comfortably. But, had it not been for his fighting skills, the world number one would not have even made it to the last eight, considering he was "blown away" by Tomaz Bellucci in the first set, which the Brazilian won 6-0.
However, the Serbian showed why he is, by a long way, the best player in the world at the moment, coming back to take the final two sets 6-3, 6-2.
"First set was a complete Bellucci storm, and I was blown away from the court," Djokovic was quoted as saying by the Rome Masters' official website. "So that was something to change. Fortunately, the matches are played in best of three, so I had another opportunity to come back and to restart, which I did.
"The crucial game was the first game of the second set where I held my serve, and then I felt that things started to go my way as I tactically changed certain things, started to change the pace, get him on the move from one corner another, which with a little bit of a shorter and longer variety of balls. And it worked well.
"But the first set, credit to him. I mean, he came out the blocks very hot and, you know, returning everything very deep, aggressive, serving well, hitting from all corners."
Djokovic will expect a difficult challenge from Nadal as well, with the Spaniard booking his place in the quarterfinal following a hard-fought 6-7 (3-7), 6-2, 6-4 win over Australian Nick Kyrgios. While it might seem Nadal is still not quite at his best – he was beaten in the semifinals in Madrid by Andy Murray – the clay court king believes he is playing at a level he is happy with.
"I'm playing well, I feel like I am playing at the right level," Nadal told ATP's website after the match. "It was an important victory for me, of course, against a very difficult opponent."
However, those levels will need to go up considerably if Nadal is to test Djokovic, who has had the Spaniard's number for quite a while now. Clay, though, is usually the equaliser, and if Nadal can play anything like he used to on the red surface, he will have a chance of toppling the No.1 seed.
"It is a big challenge playing against Rafa," Djokovic said of the quarterfinal match. "The fact that I played against a left-handed player (in Bellucci) hopefully will kind of get myself positioned and prepared well for next match."
Where to Watch Live
Nadal vs Djokovic is scheduled as the third match of the morning session. The first match -- Timea Bacsinszky vs Garbine Muguruza starts at 12 noon local time (3.30 p.m. IST, 11 a.m. BST, 6 a.m. ET). That match will be followed by Andy Murray vs David Goffin, before Nadal and Djokovic take centre-stage.
Sony ESPN and Sony ESPN HD are scheduled to show the Rome Masters live in India, but if the Djokovic vs Nadal match starts after 7 p.m. IST, which is likely, then the TV coverage will cease, owing to the IPL.
Tennis Channel will show the match live in the US.
Viewers from around the world, including India, can also watch the big match live online on ATP World Tour Live.