By EDDIE PELLS, Associated Press
NEW YORK -- Blister on his foot? Not to worry.
Another match that got too close for comfort at times? That didn't bother Rafael Nadal, either.
The defending champion defeated David Nalbandian 7-6 (5), 6-1, 7-5 at the U.S. Open on Sunday to move to the fourth round.
Early in the third set, second-seeded Nadal needed a medical timeout to tend to a blister on his right foot. Later in the third set, he squandered a break and chance to end the match while serving at 5-3.
"It was a tough day. He's a great player, a fantastic player," Nadal said. "I'm happy to see him back on the court."
Nalbandian, who missed a chunk of the early season with a torn hamstring, got an early break against Nadal in the first set but, serving at 5-4, double-faulted at 15-40 and couldn't close it out. Nadal won the tiebreaker 7-5, winning it with a wide 96 mph serve and an easy putaway at the net.
"The key to the match was the first set when I had a chance to come back," Nadal said.
The second set lasted only 27 minutes, but Nalbandian fought back in the third and that took 70 minutes on a hot and windy afternoon in Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Nadal who struggled in the first round then won when Nicolas Mahut retired after two sets in the second round, called this his best match of the tournament so far. If he's going to keep his title, however, clearly he will do it in different fashion from last year. He lost a total of five service games at Flushing Meadows in 2010. He lost another three against Nalbandian to bring his tournament total to nine.
In Louis Armstrong Stadium, No. 26 Flavia Pennetta backed up her victory over Maria Sharapova with a 6-4, 7-6 (6) win over No. 13 Peng Shuai of China. Trailing 5-3 in the second, Pennetta got a break to stay in it. She forced a tiebreaker but appeared near exhaustion as the set wore on. The match took 2 hours, 31 minutes.
"This one is one of the worst I've ever felt on the court," Pennetta said.
Pennetta fell behind 5-0 and 6-2 in the tiebreaker but won the last six points to pull out the match. Pennetta made it 6-6 when she answered Peng's overhead with a shot that hit near the frame of her racket for a crosscourt winner.
Trying to move past the quarterfinals in a Grand Slam for the first time, Pennetta will play Angelique Kerber of Germany, a 6-4, 6-3 winner over Monica Niculescu of Romania.
Nadal's next match is against 68th-ranked Gilles Muller of Luxembourg, who hit 23 aces in his 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Igor Kunitsyn of Russia.
Also advancing was fifth-seeded David Ferrer, who beat 26th-seeded Florian Mayer of Germany 6-1, 6-2, 7-6 (2)
Playing later matches Sunday were No. 21 Andy Roddick, No. 4 Andy Murray and No. 2 Vera Zvonareva.
In an All-American match, No. 28 John Isner was to play Alex Bogomolov Jr. Also, No. 12 Gilles Simon had a match against No. 18 Juan Martin del Potro, the 2009 champion, and American Donald Young was scheduled against No. 24 Juan Ignacio Chela, one of three Argentines with matches Sunday.
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