Rome - Rafael Nadal narrowly avoided a stunning upset loss as the Spaniard rallied to beat Latvian qualifier Ernests Gulbis 1-6, 7-5, 6-4 on Thursday to reach the quarter-finals of the Rome Masters.
Gulbis, ranked 46th, and a winner in Rome in 2010 over Roger Federer, saved two match points in the third set but finally lost when he sent a forehand wide to the massive relief of a dancing, celebrating Nadal.
The Spaniard now stands 6-0 against Gulbis as his bid for a seventh Rome title continues against compatriot David Ferrer, who advanced in a walkover over against Philipp Kohlschreiber who was suffering from vertigo.
Nadal was fresh from his Madrid title at the weekend, winning five titles from seven finals since returning to tennis after a seven-month knee injury absence.
Results on the fifth day of the ATP Rome Masters/WTA Rome Open (x denotes seeding):
Novak Djokovic (SRB x1) bt Alexandr Dolgopolov (UKR) 6-1, 6-4
Tomas Berdych (CZE x6) bt Kevin Anderson (RSA) 7-5, 6-2
Rafael Nadal (ESP x5) bt Ernests Gulbis (LAT) 1-6, 7-5, 6-4
Benoit Paire (FRA) bt Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG x7) 6-4, 7-6 (7/3)
David Ferrer (ESP x4) bt Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) - walkover
Serena Williams (USA x1) bt Dominika Cibulkova (SVK x14) 6-0, 6-1
Carla Suarez (ESP) bt Lourdes Dominguez (ESP) 6-2, 6-3
Simona Halep (ROM) bt Roberta Vinci (ITA x13) 6-4, 6-2
Jelena Jankovic (SRB) bt Li Na (CHN x5) 7-6 (7/2), 7-5
Victoria Azarenka (BLR x3) bt Ayumi Morita (JPN) 6-1, 2-0 - retired
Sara Errani (ITA x7) bt Maria Kirilenko (RUS x12) 6-3, 2-0 - retired