Djokovic and Nadal battle through in Madrid

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[May 11, 2017]    MADRID (Reuters) - Defending champion Novak Djokovic and home favorite Rafa Nadal were made to work hard to reach the third round of the Madrid Open on Wednesday.

Nadal celebrates at the end of the match. REUTERS/Susana Vera

Djokovic overcame Spaniard Nicolas Almagro 6-1 4-6 7-5 while Nadal endured a three-hour epic with Italy’s Fabio Fognini before progressing 7-6 (7-3) 3-6 6-4.

Almagro, ranked 76th, broke Djokovic in the opening game but the world number two roared back to win six consecutive games, finishing the last with a tidy drop shot.

Spaniard Almagro, who has never gone beyond the quarter-finals in a grand slam, grew in confidence in the second set, however, with the backing of the home support and saved two break points before forcing a decider.

An upset looked on the cards when Almagro broke Djokovic at the first attempt in the third set and marched into a 3-0 lead but the Serb drew on his experience to battle back, breaking the 31-year-old twice before serving out for the match.

The Serbian, who recently split from his long-term coach Marian Vajda, is trying to regain his best form again ahead of the French Open. Four-times winner Nadal twice bounced back to win the first set in a thrilling tiebreak.

Fognini played aggressively, however, and forced Nadal on to the defensive as he took the match into a deciding set.

After failing to take advantage of one match point, Nadal emerged victorious thanks to two powerful forehands and the 30-year-old world number five next faces Australian Nick Kyrgios.

(Reporting by Rik Sharma, Editing by Ed Osmond)

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