Top-seeded Rafael Nadal overcame a sluggish start to beat Fernando Verdasco 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 in the first round of the Hamburg Open on Tuesday.
Nadal was playing his first match since losing to Dustin Brown in the second round of Wimbledon. The former No. 1 in the world has fallen to No. 10.
In the all-Spanish match, Nadal appeared to have trouble adjusting to clay and finding his timing. But his game picked up noticeably in the last two sets. Verdasco saved one match point but then hit the net with a backhand to hand Nadal the win. Nadal’s last match on clay was the quarterfinal loss to Novak Djokovic at the French Open.
The Spaniard broke immediately for a 1-0 lead, but Verdasco held his nerve to break back. The World No. 41 applied pressure yet again in the sixth game, breaking the top seed for a 4-2 lead. Verdasco went on to clinch the opening set after 37 minutes, having hit 10 winners.
It took Nadal 12 minutes to hold serve in the opening game of the second set. The World No. 10 then struck first to break his compatriot, and then held to race to a 3-0 lead. Another break for Nadal put him two games away from levelling the match. Verdasco’s first ace of the match game him a hold for 1-5, but Nadal would serve out the set at love.
Nadal earned a critical break in the decider for a 2-1 lead and saved all four break points he faced in the set to eventually clinch the victory and set a second-round clash with the winner of Jiri Vesely and Andreas Haider-Maurer.
”For my mentality, it is important to finish the match better than how I started. To be able to make that change during the match was a very positive thing to me,” Nadal said.
The match was played under the court’s canvas cover because of rain.
Second-seeded Tommy Robredo also needed three sets to advance, rallying for a 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-2 win over wild card entry Alexander Zverev.
Third-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut, fourth-seeded Andreas Seppi and sixth-seeded Juan Monaco all advanced into the second round.