Gritty Nadal edges delayed Fognini encounter
Rafael Nadal showed impressive grit to see off an inspired Fabio Fognini 7-6 (7-3) 3-6 6-4 in his delayed second-round match at the Madrid Open.
Nadal's sensational start to the clay-court season has seen him take 10th career titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona, but his first match in the Spanish capital hit a snag when it was pushed back by a day due to an ear infection.
Fognini dictated the opening set with a series of powerful shots from the baseline but Nadal's resilience saw him force a tie-break to edge ahead after a mammoth 81-minute set.
Although the Italian - who beat Nadal three times in 2015 including twice on clay - forced a third set, the fourth seed's experience saw him grind out the win in just under three hours and set up a meeting with Nick Kyrgios in the third round.
Fognini struck first with a sumptuous volley seeing him seize the early initiative, but the Spaniard dug deep and momentum appeared to have shifted his way when he restored parity in game six.
Once again Fognini took control by breaking for a 4-3 lead, but a missed opportunity on set point in game nine proved costly as Nadal again levelled to force a breaker.
After coming out on top in an excellent rally Nadal clinched the opening set when he forced an error from the world number 29, who threw his racket to the ground having seen so many glorious opportunities go to waste.
The fourth seed was guilty of committing too many mistakes in the second, though, and a double-fault opened the door for Fognini to break in game four - the Italian taking it with a drop-shot and going on to force a decider.
Neither player was giving anything away at the start of the third, but Fognini was the first to slip as a double-fault and a long shot enabled Nadal to move into a 4-2 lead.
The 14-time major winner passed up an opportunity to serve out the match, but Fognini was unable to hold when serving to stay in the contest as Nadal extended his winning streak to 11 matches and claimed a 30th victory of the season.