Barcelona, April 24: Rafael Nadal got his clay-court season back on track with a battling 6-7 (7-9) 6-4 6-2 victory over Leonardo Mayer at the Barcelona Open.
Nadal's return to his favoured surface on the ATP Tour was underwhelming last week as he lost to eventual Monte Carlo Masters champion Fabio Fognini in a performance he described as one of his worst on the red dirt.
Playing on his own Pista Rafa Nadal on Wednesday, the world number two struggled again initially and lost the first-set tie-break but responded well.
The 11-time Barcelona champion dug in and levelled the match with a single break, before securing a slightly more comfortable margin in the third set to set up another potentially awkward meeting with the soon-to-retire David Ferrer.
Brilliant defence from @RafaelNadalApril 24, 2019
Nadal was made to work for his early points but forced the issue at 4-3 and was rewarded, claiming the first break point of the match when an error-strewn game concluded with Mayer dragging wide.
The Spaniard was similarly sloppy as he attempted to serve for the set, though, and the break was immediately cancelled out as he came forward and went long.
The pair traded blows in a subsequent tie-break until Mayer drove a stunning forehand past Nadal to clinch the opener.
Yet Nadal was on top right away in the second and led by a break when Mayer spectacularly failed to make contact with a straightforward backhand.
That proved to be enough to take the set as Nadal clung to a narrow advantage, before a tense decider also turned in his favour when a pair of sensational backhands put the favourite 3-2 up.
Finally in control, Nadal did not cede his position and outmanoeuvred Mayer for another break, then served out a much-needed win.