Nadal Saves Two M.P. In Beijing Opener
Rafael Nadal returned to tour-level action with a dramatic victory on Tuesday, saving two match points to oust Frenchman Lucas Pouille 4-6, 7-6(6), 7-5 at the China Open in Beijing.
The top-seeded Spaniard was down 4/6 in the second-set tie-break, but won four consecutive points to even the match at one set-all. In the decider, Nadal earned his lone break of the match in the 11th game and served out the first-round contest a game later to 15.
“[It] was a very tough first round, as I say the other day. He played well, I think. Very aggressive. He's serving well. For me was little bit difficult at the beginning. Then I started to play better. But still, I didn't have the control of the match for almost all the time,” Nadal said.
The World No. 1 extends his match win streak to eight after reeling off seven in a row last month to win the US Open, his 16th Grand Slam title. The Spaniard, a 2005 champion in Beijing, improves to 21-5 in the Chinese capital.
Pouille had won their most recent FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting and their only prior match-up on hard courts, outlasting Nadal in a fifth-set tie-break during the fourth round of the 2016 US Open. The Frenchman was aggressive in Beijing as well, blasting 46 winners to 47 unforced errors.
But it was the World No. 1 who steadied his nerves the most in the big moments. Nadal finished 10/10 at the net and converted his lone break opportunity in the third set.
“He had two match points, one of them with an easy forehand more or less. But it's like this. I remember the match against him in the US Open that I had 6-all in the tie-break, an easy forehand I missed at the net, too. That time was for him, today was for me,” Nadal said.
The top seed will next face #NextGenATP Karen Khachanov, who broke Chinese wild card Di Wu four times to advance 6-4, 6-2. Nadal leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 1-0, a straight-sets win earlier this year at Wimbledon.