‘Very happy’ Rafael Nadal survives China Open scare against Lucas Pouille
The Spaniard counts himself lucky to survive three-set battle and progress to the second round
World number one Rafael Nadal saved two match points to avoid a shock defeat in the first round of the China Open, seeing off Lucas Pouille in three sets on Tuesday.
The Frenchman broke Nadal on the way to taking the first set 6-4, and the world number 23 came within a whisker of sealing an upset when the second set went to a tie break.
But Nadal, 31, with the Beijing crowd backing him on the outdoor hard court, held his nerve when twice staring defeat in the face and fought back to win the tie break 8-6.
The pair headed into a final-set shoot-out and again Pouille refused to buckle, Nadal getting the critical break of serve in the 11th game before serving for the set and match 7-5.
Nadal, a 16-time grand slam champion, tumbled and lost a shoe at one point, and said afterwards he was fortunate to be in the second round.
“He played well, I think, very aggressive. He’s serving well,” said Nadal, who lost to Pouille the last time they met, at last year’s US Open.
“For me it was a little bit difficult at the beginning, then I started to play better. But still, I didn’t have control of the match for almost all the time. I am very, very happy to be through.”
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Nadal narrowly avoided the fate of fellow Spaniard and top-ranked Garbine Muguruza, who exited in the first round on Monday when she retired from her match with a virus.
Also into the second round in the men’s draw are Nick Kyrgios, Juan Martin del Potro, John Isner and third seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria.