Rome: World number one Rafael Nadal laboured into the third round of Rome Masters with an energy-sapping 7-6(1), 6-7(4), 6-2 victory over dangerous Frenchman Gilles Simon.
The 13-time Grand Slam winner has endured a slow start to the season, winning just three titles and suffering a number of uncharacteristic losses on his favoured clay surface.
He won the Madrid Open on Sunday after his final opponent Kei Nishikori of Japan was forced to retire through injury having been on the brink of victory and Nadal was forced to endure another scare by Simon.
The 29-year-old forced Nadal into a tiebreak in the opening set but the Spaniard gained the impetus and his heavy groundstrokes gave him the lead.
In the second set Simon, a former world number six, survived an early break, match point, and a brief interruption by an errant pigeon before forcing a deciding set with a series of powerful forehands.
Nadal, the `King of Clay`, coped best in a draining final set and from 2-2 won four games in a row to claim victory but doubts remained about his form ahead of his bid for a record-extending ninth French Open title starting later this month.