Heading to Barcelona after a terrible loss to Fabio Fognini in Monte Carlo, world no. 2 and 11-time Barcelona champion Rafael Nadal has failed to deliver his best tennis again in a 6-7, 6-4, 6-2 win over Leonardo Mayer. The match lasted two hours and 51 minutes and Nadal managed to overcome a slow start and break the resistance of his opponent, scoring the sixth win over the Argentinian in as many matches.
This was the 59th triumph for the Spaniard in 62 encounters at one of his favorite events, playing on the center court that carries his name and saving two out of three break points to reduce the damage on serve despite not being at 100%.
After a promising opener, Mayer lost the ground and couldn't match Rafa's pace, suffering four breaks from seven chances he gave to the Spaniard and finishing his run in the second round after hitting 25 winners and 41 unforced errors.
Rafa stood on a poor 20-36 ratio as well but he found his shots in the last two sets to overcome the deficit and emerge as the winner, avoiding the second straight loss on clay. It could have been a more comfortable win for the defending champion, leading 5-3 in the opener before Mayer broke back, saving a set point on serve at 4-5 and prevailing 9-7 in the tie break after two set points that Nadal squandered at 6-5 and 7-6.
With his back pushed against the wall, the Spaniard saved the only break point he faced in set number two and grabbed the lead in the very first game that he carried home for a 6-4 after a hold at 15 in game ten, standing in a much better position than an hour ago.
Rafa never looked back in the decider, dropping seven points on serve and earning breaks in games five and seven, sealing the deal with a backhand crosscourt winner at 5-2 for the place in the last 16 where he will face the old rival David Ferrer.