Rafael Nadal had to compose himself on the fly after losing the opening set to a potential Belarus spoiler as the 11-time champion fought to salvage a victory.
The top seed came good on a showcourt named in his honour at the Real Club de Tenis, where the Mallorca islander has been a member for decades.
Nadal escaped with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Ilya Ivashka, the No. 111 – but the world No. 3 had some difficult moments.after falling into the early hole.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried when I lost the first set, but at the same time I thought about changing the dynamics of the match,” the Spaniard said.
“i was thinking of trying to play more aggressive, with another intensity, to play more with the drive and that’s what I did.
“It wasn’t perfect, but the dynamics changed a lot and that’s why I took the victory.
“he did well and I did not. His level was not a world 111 player, it was better than that and one has to accept the challenge of playing every day.”
Nadal said that even a minimal 1,000 masked fans in the stands helped him through.
“I enjoyed some of the public in the stands, even more in my country. It is very nice for me.
“I hope that this support and the feeling of playing in front of my people can help me to get better and better.
“Tomorrow is going to be a very difficult game (against fellow former champion Kei Nishikori).
“I must play better than today and it will be another opportunity, I have to focus on a better level.”