Rafael Nadal struggled for nearly four and a half hours before finally pulling out a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 3-6, 6-3 defeat of Felix Auger-Aliassime on Sunday to squeeze into his accustomed place in the French Open quarter-finals.

The 13-time champion in Paris was taken to the limit by the young Canadian, whose frustration at the end was obvious   

Nadal, who missed part of the early clay campaign as he healed from injury, needed all of his resources to escape with the win.

He stuttered at the start, able to convert on only one of seven break chances.

Nadal missed multiple break chances in the opening set as his determined opponent won an opening set lasting 53 minutes.

The Spaniard recovered in the cold conditions which he hates, winning the next two sets.

But FAA put a reflex return into the empty court after three and a half hours to square the match at two sets each.

Nadal went to the attack in the final set, tweaking his tactics to finally earn the emotional win.

“It was incredible to play this way,” he said.  “This was a match with a lot of emotion at the tournament which is the most important of my career. 

“Felix is a great player, without a doubt. He’s very young with a lot of power and mobility.

“He is a very tough opponent and does a lot of things well. he’s been improving every year.

“This was a very important victory for me.”

Main photo:- Rafa Nadal celebrates after his great escape in Paris – by Roger Parker International Sports Fotos Ltd