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Spanish tennis great Rafael Nadal has kicked off his title defense at the Barcelona Open with a hard-fought 6-7 (7-9), 6-4, 6-2 victory over Argentina's Leonardo Mayer.
"It was not the best start," Nadal said after coming out on top in two hours and 50 minutes in windy conditions on Wednesday. "Not the best feelings out there this afternoon, but I found a way to keep going and to win the match. Today that's the main thing," he added.
Nadal earned the first service break of the match to grab a 5-3 lead, but Mayer broke back, saved a set point on serve en route to getting the contest back on level terms at 5-5 and then forced a tiebreaker, reports Efe news.
Mayer, who saved two more set points in the 16-point "breaker," eventually clinched the first set with a blistering inside-out forehand in the corner.
But Nadal, who suffered a shocking 6-4, 6-2 loss to Italy's Fabio Fognini in the semi-finals of last week's Monte-Carlo Masters, regrouped at the start of the second set and jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead.
Although Mayer continued to make things difficult, Nadal maintained a slim advantage in the rest of the set thanks to stepped-up aggressiveness and more accurate ball-striking off the forehand side.
The world No. 63 stayed on serve in the first few games of the decider, but Nadal finally broke free down the final stretch of the contest.
Despite the win, the Spanish 17-time Grand Slam champion said his performance on Wednesday left much to be desired.
Up next for Nadal in the tournament's round of 16 will be his close friend and countryman David Ferrer, who eased past France's Lucas Pouille 6-3, 6-1 on Wednesday.