(CNN) -- Top seed Rafael Nadal fought off a determined challenge from American James Blake to reach the quarterfinals of the China Open in Beijing on Thursday.
Rafael Nadal had to fight off a determined James Blake before reaching the Beijing last eight.
The Spaniard recovered from the loss of the second set to defeat his 29-year-old opponent 7-5 6-7 6-3 in a match lasting two-and-a-half hours.
The pair traded early breaks in the first set and then remained even until 5-5, when Blake surrendered his serve again, giving the 23-year-old Spaniard the opening he needed to close out the set.
In the second set, Nadal broke Blake at love to go 3-2 ahead, but Blake refused to give up, fighting off a match point and clawing back to 5-5.
Nadal quickly broke again to go up 6-5, but world No.24 Blake superbly broke straight back before winning the tie-break.
In the third set, Blake missed a golden opportunity to break Nadal at 2-2, when he had the Spaniard at love-40, and he paid for it when he double-faulted to fall behind 5-3.
Nadal then served out the match to love.
"It's an important win because James is always a very tough opponent," Nadal told reporters. "He's a really good player. I think he has one of the best returns of serve."
Nadal -- who won the China Open in 2005 -- will face 2004 champion Marat Safin in the quarterfinals, after the Russian upset Chilean seventh seed Fernando Gonzalez 6-3 6-4.
Meanwhile, Croatia's Ivan Ljubicic needed three sets to defeat Polish qualifier Lukasz Kubot, who shocked defending champion Andy Roddick on Tuesday.