Rafael Nadal fought off a determined challenge from Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on Wednesday, avenging an Australian Open defeat and reaching the quarter-finals of the Pacific Life Open.
Nadal, the men's defending champion and second seed at the 5.7 million-dollar WTA and ATP Masters Series event, defeated France's Tsonga 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/3), 7-5, rallying from a 2-5 deficit in the third set to sneak out the win.
"The important thing is to be there all the time, to beleive in the victory," said Nadal, who has held the world number two ranking for 139 straight weeks - all behind Swiss Roger Federer.
"Even if you're losing 5-2 in the third, try to be focused in every point. The normal thing is to lose, but if you are there, you're going to have one chance, no?"
The unheralded Tsonga had shocked Nadal in the semi-finals of the Australian Open in January, where his runner-up finish catapulted him from 38th to 18th in the world rankings.
Tsonga, who lost his only other meeting with Nadal, at the US Open last September, appeared poised for victory in the rubber match when he broke Nadal for a 4-2 lead in the third set, then held for 5-2.
But he was broken himself as he served for the match at 5-3, his deep forehand attempt missing wide on break point.
Two games later he dropped his serve again, a double-fault giving Nadal his third break point of the game, on which Tsonga produced another wayward forehand. That gave Nadal a 6-5 lead and he served it out easily.
Both players said the contest differed greatly from their Melbourne match, which Tsonga won in straight sets.