Two-time former champion Kei Nishikori survived a major scare on Monday to reach the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell second round.
The former World No. 4 recovered from 4-6, 2-4 down and was forced to break serve to stay in the match at 5-6 in the second set, before he charged to a 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-2 victory against Guido Pella after two hours and 39 minutes. The 2014 and 2015 champion claimed three service breaks in the decider to improve to 23-6 in Barcelona.
“He had the match today at 6-5, serving [for the match],” said Nishikori. “He was much better in the first and second [sets] and 3/0 up in the tie-break. I don’t know how I fought through. [In the] third set, I was playing much better.
“I was making so many unforced errors in the first and second [sets]. Maybe he got a little bit tired and I was playing strong in the third set. I want to take that to the next round… The way I fought today and the way I played in the third set was good.”
Nishikori will face 13th seed Cristian Garin for a spot in the third round. Garin won the pair’s only previous ATP Head2Head meeting at last year’s Hamburg European Open 6-0, 6-3.
“[Garin] is good on clay, but he can play on all surfaces,” said Nishikori. “I thought I was playing good [in Hamburg last year] but I lost pretty easily to him, so I definitely have to change something.”
Egor Gerasimov made a successful debut in Barcelona with a 7-5, 6-1 win against former Top 5 star Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. The Belarusian converted four of his five break points to eliminate the 2010 quarter-finalist in 80 minutes. Gerasimov will meet #NextGenATP Italian Jannik Sinner in the second round.
In the opening match on Pista Rafa Nadal, 2015 runner-up Pablo Andujar battled past Gilles Simon 6-1, 3-6, 6-3. Andujar broke serve on six occasions to confirm a second-round clash against fifth seed and countryman Roberto Bautista Agut.
Andujar was not the only home player to reach the second round on Monday. Qualifier Bernabe Zapata Miralles rallied from a set down to beat Andrey Kuznetsov 6-7(4), 7-5, 6-1.