It's Nadal's day at Barcelona Open
Rafael Nadal eked out a 6/7 (7), 6/4, 6/2 victory over Leonardo Mayer in the first match of his quest for a 12th title at the Barcelona Open Tennis Championship. When he hit a cross-court backhand winner on his fourth match point, it gave him his sixth straight career win over the 31-year-old Argentine, ranked 63rd in the world.
Nadal won the first game of the match on his serve but the lanky Mayer held to level until the eighth game when Nadal broke to lead 5-3. Serving for the set, Nadal lost three consecutive points. Although he saved one break point, he could not win the game. It was a momentum shift as his opponent saved a set point and went on to win the 10th game.
Nadal held serve to lead 6-5 but Mayer did not drop a point in taking the 12th game. In the tiebreak, Mayer got the first break to lead 4-2 at changeover but lost three points before the second changeover at six points apiece. Nadal reached the second set point but three points lost in a row gave his opponent the set.
Mayer served well and traded ground strokes with Nadal, and it seemed an upset was in the making. However, Nadal broke his opponent’s serve to take the seventh game and saved a break point before holding for a 5-3 lead. Mayer reduced the score by holding serve but Nadal took the 10th game and the set 6-4. In the final set, Nadal got the crucial break to lead 3-2 and cruised to victory 6-2. The battle lasted two hours and 48 minutes.
Earlier in the day, there was an “African” match-up, as Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri took on Togolese-Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime. The 18-year old Auger-Aliassime has made strides this season, rising to in the rankings and winning 17 matches. He extended it to 18 with a 6/3, 7/6 (8) in an exciting match played for one hour and 47 minutes.
Nicholas Jarry of Chile continued s Cinderella march with a 3/6; 7/5; 7/6 upset of second seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany. Jarry, is ranked 81 and played the qualifying rounds. He defatted Chan Hsing Tseng of China Taipei 64; 3/6; 76 in the first round and lost to Spain’s Marcel Granollers. However, he was picked as a lucky loser into the main draw where he retaliated by defeating Granollers 7/5; 4/6; 6/4 to reach the second round face-off with Alexander Zverez.