Rafael Nadal seeks redemption at China Open in Beijing after comfortable first-round win
The Spaniard won 6-1, 6-1 against Italian Paolo Lorenzi, while top seed Andy Murray records a 6-2, 7-5 victory over Andreas Seppi
Rafael Nadal barrelled through his opening match of the China Open on Tuesday as he seeks to redeem his injury-blighted season with a strong run in Beijing.
Nadal dropped just two games in beating 39th ranked Italian Paolo Lorenzi 6-1, 6-1, as top seed Andy Murray dismissed Andreas Seppi to book his place in the second round.
Fourteen-time grand slam champion Nadal is approaching the end of his second consecutive season without a major title since he won his first aged 19 at Roland Garros in 2005.
He has repeatedly fended off questions about his future since he was forced out of the French Open third round with a wrist injury that also saw him miss Wimbledon.
Watch: Rafael Nadal in action at the China Open
“When you get an injury for two months and-a-half in the middle of the season [it] is tough,” Nadal said.
“[There] remains a little bit to finish the season. Today is an important victory. There are points to try [to win] to qualify for the World Tour Finals.”
Nadal is currently eighth on the leaderboard for the London ATP Finals, which features the year’s top eight players, and needs to pick up some points in Beijing to ensure his qualification.
Until the wrist injury forced him off the court, Nadal had showed signs of a renaissance this year after his worst season as a professional in 2015, which saw him plummet to his lowest ranking in a decade.
But he has failed to get past the fourth round of any of the grand slams this year and just missed out on a bronze medal at the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.
Nadal needed little more than an hour to beat Paolo Lorenzi, fending off two break points as he took time to get his serve under control in the first set.
The 2005 China Open champion, seeded second in Beijing, improved his first service percentage from 42 to 85 in the second set.
Murray defeated Seppi 6-2, 7-5 after dropping serve once in the second set.
The world number two, who took over the number one seeding when Novak Djokovic withdrew from the tournament, is playing at the China Open for the third time after he reached the quarter-finals on his debut and then the semi-finals.
“I thought I did OK considering I hadn’t played much the past couple of weeks,” said Murray, who has been struggling with a shoulder injury. “But there was some good stuff in there. With each match, I’ll play better hopefully. No injuries. Felt fine. Just need matches now.”
In other matches, Alexander Zverev eliminated fourth-seeded Dominic Thiem 4-6, 6-1, 6-1; Jack Sock beat Chinese wild-card entry Zhang Ze 6-3, 7-5 and Canadian Milos Raonic beat Florian Mayer of Germany 6-4 7-6 (7-1).
Meanwhile on the women’s side, double Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova – fresh from her victory at the Wuhan Open last week – showed little mercy for home hope Wang Yafan, beating her 6-4, 6-1 to reach the round of 16.
But Zhang Shuai kept the home flag flying when she battled to victory against Alison Riske of the US 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7-4).
In a late match, Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark continued her resurgence by beating Roberta Vinci of Italy 6-3, 6-2.