Rafael Nadal suffered the quarter-final loss in Monte Carlo last week to Andrey Rublev, heading back home to Barcelona and chasing the 12th title at one of his favorite events. Seeking the 62nd victory at the prestigious ATP 500 event, Nadal took down Ilya Ivashka 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 in two hours and 19 minutes, struggling in the opener and bringing the victory home after that.
Nadal got broken twice in the opener, never facing troubles on serve again and delivering three breaks to cross the finish line first. The Spaniard had 16 winners and 23 unforced errors, and Ivashka was capable of following that pace, giving his best to stay in touch and falling after a single break he experienced in the final set.
Like in Monte Carlo, Rafa struggled on serve big time in the opening set, landing only 49% of the first serve in and getting broke twice. The Belarusian saved the only break point he faced to secure the set in style and move closer to a career-best triumph.
Nadal sprayed a backhand error in the opening game to suffer a break, repeating the same mistakes from Monte Carlo and wasting his opportunity in the next one to send the rival 2-0 up. Four of the following five games went to deuce as they pushed each other to the limits.
Still, the returners failed to create chances, with returners delivering good tennis when it mattered the most.
Rafael Nadal defeated Ilya Ivashka in three sets to make a winning start in Barcelona.
Serving at 3-5, Nadal got broken again after a shaky backhand down the line, handing the set to his opponent and raising concerns about his form and current level.
The Spaniard had to improve his game, and he did that in set number two, sailing through his service games and finding a way to crack Ivahska's serve and gain the advantage. The Belarusian suffered breaks in games one and five to propel Rafa 4-1 ahead, with the home favorite holding at love in game eight to close the set in style.
Ivashka stayed in touch with the 11-time winner in the decider's opening six games before Rafa seized a crucial break at love at 3-3 thanks to Ilya's terrible forehand. Serving at 3-5, Ivashka saved a match point to prolong the battle before Rafa sealed the deal a few minutes later with a forehand down the line winner to advance into the last 16.