MASON, Ohio -- Rafael Nadal wanted to play a lot of tennis at the Western & Southern Open, though maybe not all in one day.
Nadal survived a three-set, three-tiebreak match against fellow Spaniard Fernando Verdasco on Thursday, advancing to the quarterfinals with a 7-6 (5), 6-7 (4), 7-6 (9) victory that kept him on court for 3 hours, 38 minutes. Then, he played a doubles match that went 1 hour, 10 minutes, followed by interviews.
How'd he feel?
"Fantastic," he said, smiling broadly.
The top three players in the men's bracket advanced Thursday. Djokovic beat qualifier Radek Stepanek 6-3, 6-3 in a ragged match, improving to 31-0 on hard courts this year and 55-1 overall. Federer knocked off James Blake 6-4, 6-1 in the evening.
Nobody had a day quite like the second-seeded Nadal, who arrived for the Cincinnati-area tournament hoping to get a lot of time on court this week. He missed nearly a month after hurting his left foot at Wimbledon, where he reached the final and lost to Djokovic.
Playing on a sunny, mid-80s afternoon, Nadal blew four match points before finally ending it. It was only the second best-of-three match in Nadal's career that featured three tiebreaks.
"I would like to have one hour less than I have, but it's a positive one," said Nadal, now 12-0 against Verdasco.
After taking a few questions, Nadal said politely, "I have to go to rest."
"If you want to play someone like Rafa, you hope that he plays a match that's four hours long before you play him," Fish said. "I mean, that's as physical as it gets. It's hot out there, so I'm sure he'll be pretty tired."
Djokovic has played a lot of matches lately, and it showed in his performance on Thursday. He pumped his fist to get the crowd involved near the end.
"It's been very slow, kind of an ugly match to play and watch, so I think we really needed to engage the crowd at the end," Djokovic said. "I've played so many matches, and they've caught up to me. It's OK.
"There are days like this when you don't feel like playing, but I hate losing. That's what makes me motivated on the court," he said.
Federer needed only 54 minutes to beat Blake, breaking his serve four times in the second set. Both players served fast and finished points quickly. Federer improved to 10-1 against the American.
"We were speeding out there today," Federer said. "Against James, it's always a fast-paced match from start to finish. You hope you get on a roll and he doesn't. In the second set, he didn't play so well."
Also Thursday, 10th-seeded Frenchman Gilles Simon defeated No. 5 David Ferrer of Spain 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-4; No. 6 Gael Monfils of France beat Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany 6-2, 6-2; and eighth-seeded Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic beat ninth-seeded Spaniard Nicolas Almagro 6-2, 6-2.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.