RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Top-seeded Rafael Nadal overcame the stiffest test so far in his first clay-court tournament of the season, defeating No. 6 Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay 4-6, 7-5, 6-0 to reach the semifinals of the Rio Open.
The match ended at 3:21 in the morning local time on Saturday –more than 14 hours after the tournament opened play on Friday, as organizers scheduled all five top matches on center court, and they all went to three sets.
It’s not a record. The ATP says one non-Grand Slam match ended slightly later — 3:24 a.m. in Tokyo in 2006.
Nadal was not happy at being kept up so late.
“No tennis tournament should end at this time,” he said. “It’s tough for the players, but maybe worse for the fans. It very bad on the part of the ATP. It’s not the tournament’s fault. It was the ATP that didn’t want to reschedule a match. If it’s a Grand Slam you have a day to rest. It’s seems like a terrible error to me.”
Nadal will have about 16 hours to rest before he faces No. 4 Fabio Fognini in Saturday’s semifinals. In a marathon, Fognini of Italy defeated Federico Delbonis of Argentina 6-4, 6-7 (10), 7-6 (9).
Nadal said beforehand that he’d have to step up his game against Cuevas, and he did.
“It’s a big win for me,” Nadal said. “I’m in the semifinals. It’s a great result and it gives me confidence.”
Cuevas collapsed in the final set, and as his game broke down fans began to jeer, which angered him more, prompting him to take a few wild swings in the last two sets with balls sailing high and wide.
This is Nadal’s first event on clay since last year, a welcome change after losing last month on hardcourts in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, and being beaten in the first round in Qatar on hardcourts.
Nadal looks slimmer this season, though when asked about it in Rio he said his weight was unchanged — about 85-86.5 kilograms (188-190 pounds). He said perhaps he seems smaller because he has not be wearing sleeveless shirts when he plays.
In other men’s matches, No. 2 David Ferrer advanced to the semifinals, beating Juan Monaco of Argentina 6-3, 4-6, 6-2. He will face Andreas Haider-Maurer of Austria, who won over Joao Souza of Brazil 7-6 (4), 1-6, 6-4.
On the women’s side, top-seeded Sara Errani of Italy reached the semifinals after Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil retired in the deciding third set.
Haddad Maia, who won took the first set, stopped with the score 3-6, 7-6 (2), 3-0 in Errani’s favor. Tournament officials said Haddad Maia withdrew with cramping.
Errani will face No. 5 Johanna Larsson of Sweden, who defeated Dinah Pfizenmaier of Germany 6-4, 6-0.
Second-seeded Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania made the last four, beating Julie Glushko of Israel 6-1, 6-2. Begu will play No. 6 Anna Schmiedlova of Slovakia. She beat Veronica Cepede Royg 6-3, 6-1.
Stephen Wade on Twitter: http://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP