Rafael Nadal Saves 2 Match Points in Epic Win over Lucas Pouille at China Open

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistOctober 3, 2017

BEIJING, CHINA - OCTOBER 03:  Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates a point against Lucas Pouille of France during the Men's singles first round on day four of 2017 China Open at the China National Tennis Centre on October 3, 2017 in Beijing, China.  (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Rafael Nadal saved two match points as he came back from a set down to beat Lucas Pouille 4-6, 7-6 (6), 7-5 in a thrilling first-round match at the China Open on Tuesday.

Pouille performed brilliantly in the first set to take the lead, then netted both match points in a second-set tiebreak, dramatically allowing the top seed and world No. 1 back into the contest. Then, at the end of another tight set, Nadal shone, breaking late on and then holding serve for the win.

Prior to that, third seed Grigor Dimitrov didn't have things his own way in Beijing, as he needed three sets to overcome Damir Dzumhur.

In the women's draw, second seed Simona Halep is through after Magdalena Rybarikova retired early in the second set of their match. Fourth seed Karolina Pliskova and 12th seed Petra Kvitova are also into the last 16 after straight-sets wins, while Maria Sharapova overcame Ekaterina Makarova in three. 

Read on for selected results from China and a look at some of the highlights from a fascinating round of 32 at the National Tennis Center.

      

China Open, Tuesday Results 

Men's Draw

(1) Rafael Nadal bt. Lucas Pouille, 4-6 7-6 (6) 7-5

(2) Alexander Zverev bt. Kyle Edmund, 6-3 7-6 (3)

(3) Grigor Dimitrov bt. Damir Dzumhur, 6-1 3-6 6-3

(6) John Isner bt. Malek Jaziri, 6-2 6-3

(7) Tomas Berdych bt. Jared Donaldson, 6-3 0-6 6-2

(8) Nick Kyrgios bt. Nikoloz Basilashvili, 6-1 6-2

Juan Martin del Potro bt. Pablo Cuevas, 7-6 (4) 6-4

Karen Khachanov bt. Di Wu, 6-4 6-2 

Leonardo Mayer bt. Paolo Lorenzi, 7-6 (6) 5-7 6-4

Andrey Rublev bt. Jack Sock, 3-6 6-1 6-2

       

Women's Draw

(2) Simona Halep bt. Magdalena Rybarikova, 6-1 2-1 (Ret)

(4) Karolina Pliskova bt. Andrea Petkovic, 6-4 6-4

(12) Petra Kvitova bt. Varvara Lepchenko, 6-4 6-4

Maria Sharapova bt. Ekaterina Makarova, 6-4 4-6 6-1

Daria Kasatkina bt. Lara Arruabarrena, 6-4 7-5

Sorana Cirstea bt. Christina McHale, 7-6 (4) 6-0

Elena Vesnina bt. Ying-Ying Duan, 6-3 6-2

Daria Gavrilova bt. (14) CoCo Vandeweghe, 6-3 2-0 ret.

Barbora Strycova bt. Julia Goerges, 6-4 6-2

(11) Agnieszka Radwanska bt. Shuai Zhang, 7-5 7-5

Full tournament results and updated schedule are available on the China Open website.

      

Tuesday Recap

Pouille is a player you sense none of the world's elite enjoy coming up against, and we saw exactly why in the first set.

The Frenchman was efficient and effective against Nadal, making few errors against the Spaniard and finding ways to put his serve under pressure. In the fifth game, he broke Nadal and followed up with some rock-solid service games of his own, taking the opener 6-4.

Here's the moment Pouille won the first set against the world No. 1:

The underdog continued to look composed in the second, and even when he did come under pressure, facing three break points in the eighth game, he was able to come through and hold serve.

That was the only major worry in the second stanza for Pouille, as he matched Nadal and pushed the second set into a tiebreak.

Pouille took everything Nadal could throw at him for long spells.
Pouille took everything Nadal could throw at him for long spells.PHILIPPE HUGUEN/Getty Images

In it, the Frenchman conjured two match points, the first of which he squandered after netting a routine forehand from a short ball. He netted the second, too, handing the momentum to Nadal, who showed tremendous skill under pressure to eventually take the set, with four points rattled off in a row.

As noted by journalist Carole Bouchard‏, the match was on Pouille's racquet:

Pouille may have crumbled after such a disappointment, but he was back on it in the deciding set, as he matched his opponent and Nadal continued to search for rhythm.

Yet, in the final stages of the decider, the champion's mentality of Nadal emerged again. With the third deadlocked at 5-5, he stepped up his game to break for the first time in the match and then served out the contest emphatically.

Dimitrov had to fight hard to ensure he would be involved in the last 16, too. While the Bulgarian dominated the first set, he was pegged back in the second by the Bosnian; eventually he had too much in the decider.

Next up for Dimitrov is an eye-catching encounter with Juan Martin del Potro, who beat Pablo Cuevas in straight sets:

In the women's draw, Halep eventually progressed as a result of Rybarikova retiring from their match due to illness.

As we can see, courtesy of WTA Tennis Romania, prior to the match being called off at the start of the second stanza, the Romanian was looking pretty imperious:

Progression for Halep here sets up another potentially enthralling showdown in the last 16, as she'll come up against Sharapova.

Sharapova, who emerged victorious in an epic contest with Anastasija Sevastova on Saturday before getting the better of Makarova in three sets on Tuesday, overcame Halep in a thrilling contest at the U.S. Open earlier in the year.

The Russian said she's looking forward to that challenge, per the tournament's official Twitter account:

Fourth seed Pliskova also progressed with a pretty comfortable win over Andrea Petkovic, while her compatriot Kvitova won by the same scoreline against Varvara Lepchenko.

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