Rafael Nadal saved two match points to continue his winning streak since the US Open and register a dramatic first round victory over Lucas Pouille at the China Open on Tuesday (3 October).
The Spaniard returned to the tour for the first time since claiming his 16<sup>th men's singles Grand Slam title at Flushing Meadows and was immediately put under threat by the Frenchman, who played aggressively throughout the game – 46 winners and 47 unforced errors.
Nadal was a set down and 4-6 down in the second set tiebreaker and was facing two match points. But he won four consecutive points to level the game and then won his only break in the 11<sup>th game of the third set to wrap up the tie 4-6, 7-6, 7-5 in two hours and thirty minutes.
It was the third encounter between the two players with Pouille having won their most recent match at last year's US Open, when he outlasted the Spaniard in the fifth set tie breaker in the fourth round.
"[It] was a very tough first round, as I say the other day. He played well, I think. Very aggressive. He's serving well. For me was little bit difficult at the beginning. Then I started to play better. But still, I didn't have the control of the match for almost all the time," Nadal said after his win in Beijing, as quoted on ATP's official site.
"He had two match points, one of them with an easy forehand more or less. But it's like this. I remember the match against him in the US Open that I had 6-all in the tie-break, an easy forehand I missed at the net, too. That time was for him, today was for me," the 10-time French Open champion added.
Nadal will next face Karen Khachanov, whom he defeated in the round of 32 at Wimbledon this year. It is their only meeting thus far and the Spaniard will be keen to build on his tough first round win and progress to the latter stages of the tournament, which he last won in 2005.
The 31-year-old will further broaden his advantage over Roger Federer in the points table as they battle for the year-end number one ranking. World number one Nadal was 1960-points ahead of the number two ranked Swiss ace coming into this tournament and can increase his lead by a maximum of 500 points – if he wins - with the latter not playing until next week's Shanghai Masters.