Nadal playing in the Madrid Open. GETTY IMAGES

Rafael Nadal fought off Argentina's Pedro Cachin in the Spanish Open and his hopes of competing in the upcoming Paris tournament are still intact, while Coco Gauff lost to fellow American Madison Keys in the last 16 and bowed out.

 Despite a year marred by injuries, Nadal wants to play in his marquee Grand Slam event, which he has won a record 14 times, and the clay courts of Madrid are proving a precious testing ground for now, despite his struggles. The tennis legend said he is doing his best to "keep dreaming" after he extended his stay at his own country’s Open by winning a three-hour tussle with Cachin 6-1, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3 on Monday.

Contesting his home tournament one last time before expected retirement, the five-time champion exchanged some warm words with Cachin at the net and gave the world number 91 a match shirt as a memento. Nadal's reward is a last-16 clash with the 30th-seeded Jiri Lehecka on Tuesday.

"Some moments good, some moments not good. I found a way to be through. I think in the third set with some mistakes I was still able to be a bit unpredictable," Nadal said of his roller-coaster victory. "Now I'm enjoying. Let's see how I wake up tomorrow. Playing at home means everything to me, just try my best to keep dreaming."

Since the start of the 2005 season, Nadal has lost just once in 163 matches against players ranked outside the top 50 on clay. Cachin's two wins in Madrid this week were his first of the season, as he entered the tournament with zero wins from 11 matches contested in 2024. But those numbers do not reflect the level showcased by the 29-year-old, who saved nine out of 18 break points against Nadal, and pushed the 22-time major champion to his limits.

Coco Gauff, playing in the Madrid Open. GETTY IMAGES
Coco Gauff, playing in the Madrid Open. GETTY IMAGES

In a dominant first set, Nadal fired 14 winners and made just nine unforced errors to take the lead in 47 minutes. He recovered from a double-break deficit in the second set to force a tiebreak but couldn't hold off another surge from Cachin, who converted his first chance to level the match and take it into a decider.

Nadal had two chances to go up a double break early in the final set but Cachin sidestepped both to hold and soon evened up the score at 2-2. The Argentine could not hold his level though as Nadal found an opening once again and this time did not flinch, storming through to the fourth round on Cachin's 41st unforced error of the match.

US Champion Gauff, on the other hand, was dumped out of the Open by Keys in the last 16, losing 7-6 (7/4), 4-6, 6-4. The world number three, who has not reached a WTA final on clay since losing the 2022 French Open showpiece to Iga Swiatek, led 4-2 in the deciding set but Keys won four straight games to secure victory. Keys will now square off in the quarter-final against Tunisian eighth seed Ons Jabeur.