Nadal rallies to advance in Barcelona

Published by Tennismash/AAP

FIGHTING BACK: Rafael Nadal survived a slow start to defeat Leonardo Mayer in Barcelona; Getty Images
World No.2 Rafael Nadal begins his Barcelona campaign with a hard-fought three-set victory, setting up a showdown with retiring compatriot David Ferrer.

Rafael Nadal has recovered from a slow start to defeat Leonardo Mayer and advance to the third round of the Barcelona Open – keeping alive his streak of never losing consecutive matches on clay.

The top-seeded Nadal squandered three set points in the first set, including two in the tiebreaker after exchanging breaks late in the set.

He rebounded quickly by breaking Mayer’s serve in the first game of the second set, then cruised to a 6-7(7) 6-4 6-2 victory against the No.63-ranked Argentine.

“It wasn’t the best start,” Nadal said.

“Not the best feelings out there this afternoon, but I found a way to keep going and to win the match.

“(Mayer) competes well against everybody but probably today (the problem) was not that he competed very well against me. I was not competing that well.”

An 11-time champion in Barcelona, Nadal next plays fellow Spaniard David Ferrer.

The 37-year-old Ferrer, who is playing in Barcelona for the last time and will retire after next month’s tournament in Madrid, defeated 15th-seeded Lucas Pouille 6-3 6-1 in his second-round match.

Italian Fabio Fognini, who defeated Nadal during his title-winning run in Monte Carlo last week, was a late withdrawal with a hamstring injury. He was replaced in the draw by 104th-ranked Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena, who opened with a 6-7(4) 6-4 6-2 win over compatriot Nicola Kuhn.

Seventh-seeded Daniil Medvedev reached the third round by defeating Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-3 2-6 6-1, while American Mackenzie McDonald advanced with a 6-3 6-2 win over 11th-seeded Gilles Simon.

“I’m really happy with the way that I finished the match, and the first and third sets were a really good level,” Medvedev told ATPTour.com.

Sixth seed Karen Khachanov, defeated by Guido Pella, and 12th seed Pablo Carrena Busta, who lost a three-set battle to Benoit Paire, were also eliminated.

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No.13 seed Grigor Dimitrov fared better, defeating Spain’s Fernando Verdasco in three sets. No.16-seeded teen Felix Auger-Aliassime also advanced, defeating Malek Jaziri 6-3 7-6(7) to set up a third-round match against fourth-seeded Kei Nishikori.

But fellow Canadian and No.9 seed Denis Shapovalov crashed out, beaten by Chile’s Cristian Garin 7-5 6-2.

Local wildcard stars in Budapest

A world No.246-ranked local is thrilling fans at the ATP event in Budapest.

Attila Balazs moved into the quarterfinals with a 6-4 2-6 6-2 win over sixth seed John Millman, who was a finalist at the event last year.

It was his first win over a top 50-ranked opponent and marks only the second time that the 30-year-old Balazs has won consecutive matches at ATP level, a feat he last achieved in Bucharest in 2012.

France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert awaits in the quarterfinals, advancing with a 7-5 6-2 win over German Matthias Bachinger.

Top seeds Marin Cilic and Borna Coric, who both received first-round byes, begin their campaigns tomorrow.

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