Defending Rogers Cup champion Rafael Nadal returned to the quarterfinals on Thursday, defeating Guido Pella, 6-3, 6-4, to win the first night match in Montreal. In the last eight, Nadal will square off against No. 7 seed Fabio Fognini, who defeated Adrian Mannarino, 6-2, 7-5, just seconds after the top seed completed his victory.
“I have to play very well. Fabio is having a great year. He’s a very tough opponent,” Nadal said afterwards in a TV interview. “I need to be ready to find solutions, so I hope to ready to compete at the highest level. I need to be focused with my serve and aggressive on the return.”
Nadal lost his last meeting to Fognini in the semifinals of Monte Carlo. (Getty Images)
Pella framed two forehands to get broken in his opening service game, a shaky start that would enable Nadal to grab a comfortable early lead. The Spaniard’s only hiccup came when he lost a 10-minute game to drop serve while leading 3-2 in the second. Nadal quickly brushed off the disappointment to break Pella right back. He improved his head-to-head series with the Argentine to a 4-0 mark after serving out the victory in one hour and 41 minutes.
The 33-year-old is looking to triumph at the ATP Masters 1000 event for a fifth time, having lifted the trophy in 2005, 2008, 2013 and last year over Stefanos Tsitsipas. Nadal is 39-6 on the season and picked up his 18th major title after tasting victory at Roland Garros for a record-extending 12th occasion.
Nadal owns an 11-4 advantage against the Italian, but Fognini won their most recent meeting in the Monte Carlo semifinals en route to clinching the biggest title of his career. Fognini’s lone win in six hard-court clashes came in the third round of the 2015 US Open, when he stunned Nadal by coming back from two sets down.