BASEL, Switzerland: Rafael Nadal rallied from the depths to narrowly prevent a repeat of one his his worst career losses as he beat Lukas Rosol 1-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7/4) at the Swiss Indoors on Monday (Tuesday in Manila).
Three years ago, the then no.69 journeyman famously upset world no.2 Nadal in the 2012 Wimbledon second round.
This time, Nadal had to make numerous recoveries, the last from 4-2 down in the final-set tiebreaker, before finally prevailing.
“I thought I was out of here,” said Nadal after his narrow first-round escape.
“It was the first match on indoor hardcourt for me in almost a year.
“He’s tough to play, he came to the court with big confidence. He was trying to hit the ball hard on every shot.
World no.7 Nadal escaped a repeat disappointment after losing in the first round here 12 years ago to countryman Feliciano Lopez. He made a dismal start as he lost the opening set in just 23 minutes.
The third seed, whose game looked a shambles through much of the first two sets, finally came to life in the nick of time, breaking Rosol with the Czech leading 5-4 and serving for the match.
Nadal, whose first forehand winner only came in the first game of the second set, found a backhand winner down the line to break for 5-5.
The former world number one and 14-time Grand Slam winner then seized the momentum with a break in the final game on a third match point as his nervous opponent double-faulted.
Nadal found his form, breaking Rosol for 2-0 and saving a pair of break points for a 3-0 lead.
But he lost the momentum and the set went into a tiebreaker, which the Czech led 4-2. Nadal slowly reeled in the potential spoiler, claiming a match point at 5-4 and finishing it off seconds later.