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Nadal survives shaky start, sets up date in Rome with Murray

ROME -- Rafael Nadal continued to search for his best clay form, surviving a shaky start on Thursday to reach the quarterfinals of the ATP-WTA Rome Masters and a date with Andy Murray.

The top seed beat Russian Mikhail Youzhny, winning 12 of the last 13 games in a 6-7 (4/7), 6-2, 6-3 win which took almost three hours.

Murray and Nadal have not played each other for more than two and a half years, when Murray beat the Spaniard in a 2011 Tokyo final.

Less than 24 hours after being severely tested by Gilles Simon, Nadal found himself in trouble against Youzhny, who last won a set against the world number one back in 2008.

After spending 73 minutes in losing the opener, Nadal finally found enough form to take the victory at a tournament where he is looking to win for the eighth time.

“Andy will be a very tough match, he's playing well, but I'm confident I can do it,” said Nadal, who added that if he does not take his chances against the Scot he “will be spending the weekend (at home) in Mallorca.

“I've had two long matches and I had hoped not to be on the court for so long, but that's the way it is.”

Murray, who quit here with back problems a year ago and eventually required surgery, closed out a welcome win on his 27th birthday with an ace against Jurgen Melzer.

The Scot won 7-6 (7/1), 6-4 to advance to his second straight clay quarterfinal after Madrid a week ago.

“To be honest it's not a bad thing for me to play Nadal because I haven't played him for a long time,” said Murray.

“With the French Open and Wimbledon I would be quite interested to play him to see how his game changed and all the things I can do to make it difficult for him.

“It might be better for me to play with him now rather than at the French or Wimbledon.”

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Spain's Rafael Nadal returns the ball to Russia's Mikhail Youzhny during the Rome Masters tennis match on Thursday, May 15. (AP)

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