Madrid: Spain’s Rafael Nadal got his summer hard-court season off to an auspicious start, advancing to the third round of the Montreal Masters with a 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 victory over Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky.
Nadal struggled in the early going, squandering a chance to serve out the first set when serving at 5-4 before finally closing it out in the tie-breaker.
But the world No. 9 then played his best tennis of the match over a six-game stretch of the second set, taking a 5-1 lead with some outstanding counter-punching against his net-rushing opponent.
The Spaniard failed to close out the match against the 60th-ranked Ukrainian in his first opportunity, but he served out the contest two games later.
Next up for the 14-time Grand Slam champion in Thursday’s third round of this US Open tune-up event will be Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny, who upset France’s Gilles Simon 6-1, 6-4.
Nadal, who has struggled this season on all surfaces and seen his ranking slip to its lowest point since April 2005, won a clay-court event in Hamburg, Germany, earlier this month.
He now hopes to carry that momentum over into the North American hard-court season, which will culminate with the US Open, to be played from August 31 to September 13.