Barcelona: Spanish tennis great Rafael Nadal kicked off his title defence at the Barcelona Open with a hard-fought 6-7 (7-9), 6-4, 6-2 victory over Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer here Wednesday.
“It was not the best start,” Nadal said after coming out on top in two hours and 50 minutes in windy conditions. “Not the best feeling out there this afternoon, but I found a way to keep going and to win the match. Today that’s the main thing,” added the Spanish player.
Nadal earned the first service break of the match to grab a 5-3 lead, but Mayer broke back, saved a set point on serve en route to getting the contest back on level terms at 5-5 and then forced a tie-breaker.
Mayer, who saved two more set points in the 16-point ‘breaker’, eventually clinched the first set with a blistering inside-out forehand in the corner.
But Nadal, who suffered a shocking 4-6, 2-62 loss to Italy’s Fabio Fognini in the semifinals of last week’s Monte-Carlo Masters, regrouped at the start of the second set and jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the second set.
Although Mayer continued to make things difficult, Nadal maintained a slim advantage in the rest of the set thanks to stepped-up aggressiveness and accurate ball-striking off the forehand side.
In the third set Nadal broke his opponent’s service twice in quick succession to close out the match.
Despite the win, the Spanish 17-time Grand Slam champion said his performance left much to be desired.
Up next for Nadal in the tournament’s round of 16 will be his close friend and countryman David Ferrer, who eased past France’s Lucas Pouille 6-3, 6-1.