Rafael Nadal continued his surge towards an eighth Rome Masters title as he battled back to silence Fabio Fognini and the partisan home crowd to reach the semi-finals.
Nadal dropped the opening set before recovering to canter to a 4-6 6-1 6-2 victory and move through to the final four in the Italian capital for the 10th time and his first since 2014.
“He played well. I made a couple of mistakes in the first set, but he played so quick and was going for the shots without missing much. He put me under pressure and I made some mistakes,” Nadal told Sky Sports.
“I should not lose two serves in a row but it happened. The only thing I can do when this happens is accept it and keep working for the next set. “It was great. A full crowd, a great atmosphere. I enjoyed [it]. It was a great day to play tennis and a good match.”
Nadal is 35-3 in final-set deciders in Masters 1000 matches.
The top-seeded Spaniard appeared to take a firm stranglehold on the opening set as the Italian’s drop-shot tactics failed to trouble his opponent early on.
Nadal opened up a 4-1 lead before Fognini was spurred on by the home crowd to make a breakthrough of his own in the seventh game to bring it back on serve before winning a fifth game in a row to win the set and send the crowd into raptures.
Nadal has already won his 11th titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona during the current clay-court season, but has lost in the quarter-finals in each of the last three years in Italy.
The 31-year-old Nadal came out the aggressor in the second set and in a replica of the first set he once again opened up a 4-1 lead, which he was determined not to relinquish this time. A further break in the sixth game before a successful quick-fire service game enabled him to restore parityÂ in 33 minutes.
Nadal, who is looking to retake the world No 1 ranking from Roger Federer by winning an eighth Rome title this week, took advantage of a fatigued Fognini to rally with 12-straight points to lead 3-1.
Fognini, the world No 21, was doing everything he could to keep the final set competitive. He kept the scoreboard to one break before calling for his trainer to get his knee strapped up.
The Italian hit one too many unforced errors thereafter as Nadal motored into a 5-2 lead before successfully serving out the contestin two hoursÂ and 14 minutes.