Rafael Nadal forced to dig deep for win at the Barcelona Open

ATP Tour
Rafael Nadal backhand

Rafael Nadal continues to look sluggish on clay with the Spaniard needing three sets to see off Leonardo Mayer in the second round of the Barcelona Open.

The 17-time Grand Slam winner stuttered at the Monte-Carlo Masters last week and eventually suffered a surprise semi-final defeat at the hands of Fabio Fognini.

He admitted afterwards that it was his “worst match on clay” and he is yet to find his feet on the red dirt this campaign after “too many ups and downs” in terms of injury.

However, he is nevertheless the favourite in Barcelona as he is looking for a 12th title.

He kicked off his campaign against Mayer on Wednesday, but he didn’t have it all his own way as the Argentine won the opening set before Nadal eventually ran away with a 6-7 (7-9), 6-4, 6-2 win in two hours and 50 minutes.

After trading breaks midway through the first set, Mayer saved a couple of set points in the tie-breaker before edging to the one-set lead.

Nadal, though, hit back hard as he broke in game one of the second set and in games five and seven of the decider.

It will be an all-Spanish affair in the third round as he will face veteran David Ferrer, who beat 15th seed Lucas Pouille from France 6-3, 6-1.

Seventh seed Daniil Medvedev also required three sets to advance as the Russian beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-3, 2-6, 6-1 and he will take on Mackenzie McDonald for a place in the quarter-final after the American secured a 6-3, 6-1 win over 11th seed Gilles Simon.

Meanwhile, Felix Auger-Aliassime earned himself a clash against fourth seed Kei Nishikori as the Canadian beat Malek Jaziri 6-3, 7-6 (9-7).

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