Rafael Nadal had to rev up his clay game after losing the opening set. But the 11-time champion eventually prevailed 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 over a Belarus outsider on Wednesday at the Barcelona Open.
Spain’s king of clay who considers the Real Club de Tenis as his personal playground, gave his home public a minor fright when he dropped the first set of his opening match of the week to qualifier Ilya Ivashka of Belarus, ranked 111th.
But after nearly an hour of opening play, Nadal’s instincts kicked in as the 34-year-old got down to the business of constructing the comeback in two and a half hours on the showcourt named in his honour.
Nadal has a storied history at the tournament where he has won three of the last four editions (he lost the 2019 semi-finals to Dominic Thiem).
The top seed had to deal not only with a court made heavy by overnight rain but also with his personal demons after losing a Monte Carlo quarter-final to eventual finalist Andrey Rublev.
“I can improve everywhere. I will get there,” Nadal said of his close call.
“I will fight for it. I haven’t played a lot in a year so it’s not easy.
“But I have confidence in the work that I work on a daily basis to find solutions “
The match marked the first time in eight years that Nadal has lost a set against a player ranked outside the Top 100.
Nadal won 41 consecutive matches here from 2005-2014 .
Throughout his career he has lost a clay match only once to a player ranked higher than 100th: No. 113 Frenchman Olivier Mutis beat him in Palermo in September, 2004.
Main photo:- Rafa Nadal winning his first match in three sets – ©ATPTour.com