Tennis

Nadal survives China Open scare

World No. 1 saves two match-points before eventually beating Pouille in China Open

World No. 1 Rafael Nadal saved two match-points to avoid a shock defeat in the first round of the China Open yesterday, seeing off Lucas Pouille in three sets.

The Frenchman broke Nadal on the way to taking the first set 6-4, and the world No. 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.

FORTUNATE

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 after an encounter lasting two hours and 31 minutes.

"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 the control of the match for almost all the time.

"I am very, very happy to be through."

Nadal, who meets Russian Karen Khachanov today, 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 Australian Nick Kyrgios, Argentinian Juan Martin del Potro, American John Isner and third seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria.

Del Potro stormed into round two with a comprehensive 7-6(7/4), 6-4 win over Uruguay's Pablo Cuevas and will face Dimitrov, who battled past Bosnian Damir Dzumhur 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

Said del Potro: "I think I'm fresh. I just came from home, (so) I'm strong to play the tournament.

NOT EASY

"To have Dimitrov in the second round is not easy for me. He's one of the favourites to win the tournament.

"It could be a quarter-final, semi-final or the final match. But tomorrow, I have to be ready for the challenge."

Eighth seed Kyrgios breezed past Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-1, 6-2, the Australian serving 12 aces as he closed out the contest within an hour. He takes on Mischa Zverev of Germany today.

Isner, the No. 6 seed, pulled off a routine 6-2, 6-3 victory over Tunisian qualifier Malek Jaziri, to earn a meeting with Argentinian Leonardo Mayer. - WIRE SERVICES

TennisRafael NadalChina