Rafael Nadal survived an early scare at the Barcelona Open yesterday by coming from a set down to beat Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer and seal his place in the last 16.
Nadal, who is attempting to win the tournament for a record 12th time, was made to work hard for his 6-7 (7/9), 6-4, 6-2 victory as the world number two avoided a surprise defeat ahead of the start of the French Open next month. Fellow Spaniard David Ferrer now awaits Nadal in the next round, with a place in the quarter-finals at stake. Nadal has won all of his last four meetings with Ferrer.
Mayer, ranked 63rd in the world, had never beaten a top-five opponent in 15 attempts but was more than a match for a nervous-looking Nadal in the opening set.
Nadal will be gunning for title number 12 at Roland Garros too and this recovery will have given him much relief, after the 17-time major champion also made an early exit in Monte Carlo earlier this month.
A poor game allowed Nadal to break to love at 4-3 in the first set but Mayer hit back for 5-5 and held on for a tie-break. Nadal looked in control after recovering from 3-1 and 4-2 down to set up two set points but he squandered both before Mayer took his chance at the
first time of asking, a booming forehand enough to clinch the set.An early break at the start of the second sent Nadal on his way and he served out at 5-4 to take the match to a decider.
Mayer seemed to have lost belief as he dumped a simple backhand volley into the net, allowing his opponent to seize a crucial break at 2-2. From there, the momentum was set as Nadal whipped a forehand down the line for 5-2 and then served out to complete a hard-fought win.
Azarenka ousts Zvonareva in Stuttgart
Belarusian Victoria Azarenka made a winning return to Stuttgart with a 7-5 6-4 victory over Russia’s Vera Zvonareva in what was an engrossing battle in the first round of the Porsche tennis Grand Prix yesterday.
Azarenka, a former world number one, was pushed in the opening set, especially by Zvonareva’s first serve, but fought back to break her four times in the match.
The last time the pair met was in 2011 when they were both ranked in the top 10. “We’re both in completely different stages of our careers, we’re both moms,” Azarenka said. “I think I’m playing better than I used to before, I believe I’m much more of a complete player than I used to be. I’m in the process of building my game up again.”
The 29-year-old, a two-times Australian Open champion, also had to overcome jet lag after competing in the Fed Cup semi-final in Australia at the weekend.
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