World number one Rafael Nadal overcame a tough test from Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer late on Saturday to advance into the last 16 of the US Open.
The Spaniard was pushed to the limit early on by the South American wildcard, who only made it to Flushing Meadow after Milos Raonic pulled out through injury.
Nadal, 31, eventually sealing the win 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-1, 6-4.
As he did in the second round against Japan’s Taro Daniel, Nadal took a while to get going, dropping a marathon first set to Mayer in the tiebreak after an hour and five minutes.
The big serving Argentine remained competitive early in the second set, which went with serve until Nadal finally managed to break him in the seventh game at the 14th attempt.
After breaking again to seal the second set, Nadal began to find his groove, breaking Mayer with ease as he cruised through the third set 6-1.
The fourth set seemed to be a mere formality as Mayer’s early vigour faded and Nadal began to get stronger and stronger, the veteran winning one point with an outrageous shot into the corner while on the run.
Yet, Mayer found a second wind with the Spaniard serving for the match at 5-2, breaking him before holding serve for 5-4.
Although it proved only a temporary reprieve as Nadal held in the next game to claim the win.
He will now meet Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine in the fourth round after he beat Serbia’s Viktor Troicki in straight sets.
In other third round action, David Goffin advanced after Gael Monfils was forced to retire with the Belgian leading 7-5, 5-1.
Goffin will play Andrey Rublev of Russia after he defeated Bosnia’s Damir Dzumhur in four sets, 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.