Nadal delivered a forehand winner to break in the first game of the second and at 3-1, engineered two trademark passing shots back-to-back on the way to a double break lead.
His swatted forehand cross-court on the back foot near the first row was followed by a backhand laser cross court that clipped the net.
To Tsitsipas’ credit, he dug in. Rallies became extended and his first serve began cooperating.
Neither player faced a break point and so the tiebreak ensued.
Considered to have one of the top smashes ever, Nadal dumped that overhead long as he stood virtually on top of the net.
He is considered one of the mentally toughest players in history, but even Nadal became unhinged.
Tsitsipas was somehow level at 2-2 instead of behind 4-0. At 3-3, Nadal missed another overhead long, though this time it was more difficult, struck on the baseline.
Making five unforced errors in each of the first two sets, Nadal committed five in the tiebreak alone.
Creaking, Nadal saved a break point — with an overhead — to start the fourth and saved two more at 2-2 with two unreturnables. A second-serve ace at deuce saw Nadal escape once again, for 4-3.
Chances, chances for Tsitsipas and he finally took one at 4-4 to break for the first time. A sickener for Nadal, who overcame a 0-30 deficit to earn three game points, sending a forehand sitter long on the last one.
Tsitsipas thus inched closer to matching Fognini.