World No.7 and 2005 champion Rafael Nadal overcame the first hurdle in the China Open, albeit in an unpersuasive manner, in a 6-4, 6-4 win over Di Wu.
Aiming to secure qualification in the year-ending World Tour Finals, the burly Spaniard produced a far from satisfactory performance but did enough to grind out a straights sets win in 87 minutes.
The 14-times major champion was broken four times during the course of the match and had to overcome a wobble midway into the second set before getting his act together again and close out the win.
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Nadal fired four aces to Wu’s one, who also committed four double faults, converted from six of the nine break points created and won 58 percent of service points to book a date with the Canadian Vasek Pospisil in the next round.
After exchanging early breaks in the first set with his Chinese opponent, Nadal captured the decisive break in the seventh game and served out the set without much of a snag.
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He returned to the second with an early break but conceded three successive breaks himself in a wayward set featuring only just one service hold.
However, the third seed rallied from being 4-2 down to sweep the next four games to complete the victory which will certainly induce less satisfaction and more introspection.
Nadal said in his post-match interview: “(It) looked like the match was under control with 6-4, 1-0, but then the situation changed.
“I think I played little bit too much far away from the baseline. But is true the last three games of the match I was playing better. I hit some good forehands down the line and that’s why I finished the match well and with the victory.”
“(I’m) practising well, the level of tennis going to be there sooner or later. I am working a lot to make that happen. I think I'm closer to that.
“I know it is obvious that I need results to confirm that, but we are almost at the end of this season and I have time to keep playing the last tournaments of the year with the chance to practise the things that I need to do for next year.”
In the day’s other action, world No.1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic dispatched Simone Bolelli 6-1, 6-1 to maintain his unbeaten streak in the competition’s history. The Serb has an astonishing 25-0 mark at the event.
Djokovic displayed immaculate form as he broke the Italian 5 times and saved all five break points faced to complete the win in little over an hour.
He will now square off with China’s Ze Zhang in the next round.