Rafa Nadal, having suffered a quarter-final loss to Andrey Rublev last week at the Monte Carlo Masters, nearly came a cropper in his opening match at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell ATP 500 event he has won on 11 previous occasions.
He played well. He played at a very high level, and I didn’t -- especially at the beginning Rafa Nadal
Despite a poor start against the Belarussian qualifier ranked 111, Ilya Ivashka,which included a couple of double faults and twice the loss his serve twice, the Mallorcan King of Clay stormed through into the third round 3-6 6-2 6-4 on the Centre court named after him.
“He played well. He played at a very high level, and I didn’t — especially at the beginning,” Nadal said in his on-court interview.
“And then I think I changed a little bit the way I played. I was more aggressive later, and the match changed a lot. I’m happy I [fought] hard today to be in the third round. That’s what I needed after the loss at Monte-Carlo.”
Nadal faces Japan’s Kei Nishikori , himself a two time Barcelona champion, who recovered well to defeat the Chilean Cristian Garin 7-6(5) 4-6 6-1.
Meanwhile Monte Carlo champion fro Greece, Stefanos Tsitsipas has maintained his winning momentum by increasing his win-loss record for the season to 23-5 with a comprehensive 6-0 6-2 victory over Spaniard Jaume Munor.
“It’s great to be able to play tennis like this today, even with a little rain in the second set,” said Tsitsipas afterwards.
“I think I dealt with the situation well. I was serving well and felt comfortable from the baseline. I tried to be aggressive. My shots were working, and I was trying to hit winners from all parts of the court.”
The second seed’s next opponent will be Australian Alex De Minaur, seeded 14, who ousted Kazak Alexander Bublik 7-6(3) 6-2.
The Russian Andrey Rublev, a wild card entry seeded 3 who beat Nadal last week, isn’t in the Spaniard’s half of the draw and can only meet in the final this week.
He kept that prospect alive with a comfortable 6-4 6-3 victory over Italian Lucky Loser Federico Gaio in his opening match and will face Spain’s Albert Ramos Vinolas whi eliminated the the 17th seed from France Adrian Mannarino 6-4 6-4.
Also trough to the round of 16, are Frances Tiafoe of the US who served for the match in the second set before losing to Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman 3-6 7-5 6-1. Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, seeded 10, recovered to defeat Italian Lorenzo Musetti 4-6 6-3 6-0 and goes on to meet the seventh seed, his countryman Denis Shapovalov, a 6-3 7-5 victor over Frenchman Jeremy Chardy.
Not surprisingly perhaps, Fabio Fognini, provided the dram of the day when he was disqualified from his match with the Spanish qualifier, Bernabe Zapata Miralles for allegedly verbally abusing a linesman.
The Italian, seeded nine, went into meltdown after being bageled in the first set and 4-4 in the second when the incident is said to have occurred with the linesman reporting to the umpire that Fognin had used foul language and was immediately defaulted.
Fognini denied any wrongdoing and was upset as he left the court, breaking his racket on the net post on his way out.
“What happened to me was inexplicable,” he told Spanish media. “I’m going to investigate it. I paid for something that I didn’t do.”