Rafael Nadal was pushed to three sets for the second consecutive match before ultimately prevailing to set up an Italian Open quarterfinal against Andy Murray.
The top-ranked Nadal dropped behind a set and a break against Mikhail Youzhny of Russia, then took 11 of the final 12 games to win, 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-1, on another windy day in Rome.
“Get used to (it),” Nadal said of his recent struggles. “With the years that’s the normal thing. Everybody suffers. That’s part of the sport.”
At 27, Nadal’s best days could be behind him.
“At this age, (Bjorn) Borg was doing other things,” said Nadal, a 13-time Grand Slam winner. “It’s not possible to win for 10 years with easy scores and easy matches. At the same time, I’m sure I can do much better than I am doing.”
Murray eliminated Jurgen Melzer of Austria, 7-6 (1), 6-4, to celebrate his 27th birthday, and Novak Djokovic fell behind 4-0 in the opening set before rallying for a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 win over Philipp Kohlschreiber.
In an upset, the seemingly ageless Tommy Haas beat third-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka, 5-7, 6-2, 6-3.
Also, eighth-seeded Milos Raonic defeated 11th-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 7-6 (5), 6-4, and will next face Jeremy Chardy, the Frenchman who eliminated Ivan Dodig of Croatia, 6-3, 6-2, a day after putting out Roger Federer.
On the women’s side, Maria Sharapova’s 12-match winning streak — which included titles in Stuttgart and Madrid — ended with a 6-1, 6-4 loss to Ana Ivanovic.
Showing no signs of trouble from the left thigh injury that forced her to withdraw from Madrid, defending champion Serena Williams cruised past fellow American Varvara Lepchenko, 6-1, 6-2.
In other women’s play, second-seeded Li Na defeated Sam Stosur, 6-3, 6-1, and will next meet Sara Errani of Italy, who kept the crowd content by beating Czech qualifier Petra Cetkovska, 6-4, 7-6 (3).
Also, third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska eliminated Francesca Schiavone, 6-4, 6-1, and will play 2007 and 2008 Rome champion Jelena Jankovic, who got by Flavia Pennetta, 6-2, 6-3.