Barcelona: Rafael Nadal has recovered from a slow start to defeat Leonard Mayer 6-7 (9-7), 6-4, 6-2 and advance to the third round of the Barcelona Open, keeping alive his streak of never losing consecutive matches on clay.
The second-ranked Nadal was coming off defeat to Fabio Fognini in the semi-finals of the Monte Carlo Open last week.
An 11-time champion in Barcelona, Nadal will next play fellow Spaniard David Ferrer.
The 37-year-old Ferrer, who is playing in Barcelona for the last time, defeated 15th-seeded Lucas Pouille 6-3, 6-1 in his second-round match.
The top-seeded Nadal squandered three set points in the first set, including two in the tie-breaker after exchanging breaks late in the set.
He rebounded quickly by breaking Mayer's serve in the first game of the second set, then cruised to victory against the 63rd-ranked Argentine.
"It wasn't the best start," Nadal said.
"Not the best feelings out there this afternoon, but I found a way to keep going and to win the match.
"[Mayer] competes well against everybody but probably today [the problem] was not that he competed very well against me. I was not competing that well."
Fognini won't be able to add to his Monte Carlo win after withdrawing from the Barcelona tournament because of a hamstring injury.
He was replaced by 104th-ranked Roberto Carballes Baena, who opened with a 6-7 (7-4), 6-4, 6-2 win over Nicola Kuhn.
Seventh-seeded Daniil Medvedev reached the third round by defeating Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-3, 2-6, 6-1 while American Mackenzie McDonald advanced with a 6-3, 6-2 win over 11th-seeded Gilles Simon.
Canadian teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime defeated Malek Jaziri 6-3, 7-6 (9-7) to set up a third-round match against fourth-seeded Kei Nishikori.
Meanwhile, John Millman's hopes of a return to the final of the ATP Tour's Hungarian Open are over after he was beaten by local wildcard Attila Balazs in the second round.
Australian sixth seed Millman battled for more than two hours before he succumbed 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 to world No.246 Balazs.
Millman – who made his maiden ATP Tour final last year on the red clay in Budapest – could only convert two of 11 break-point chances and will drop from 39th to at least 48th when the next rankings are released.
The 30-year-old Balazs – who returned to action in March after missing seven months due to a hip injury – will face Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the quarter-finals after the Frenchman defeated German Matthias Bachinger 7-5, 6-2.
In Germany, Victoria Azarenka has made a winning return to Stuttgart with a 7-5 6-4 victory over Russia’s Vera Zvonareva in an engrossing first-round battle at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix.
Azarenka, a former world No.1, was pushed in the opening set, especially by Zvonareva’s first serve, but fought back to break her four times in the match. The last time the pair met was in 2011 when they were both ranked in the top 10.
‘‘We’re both in completely different stages of our careers, we’re both mums,’’ Azarenka said after her win in a match that lasted an hour and 45 minutes.
‘‘I think I’m playing better than I used to before, I believe I’m much more of a complete player than I used to be. I’m in the process of building my game up again.’’
The 29-year-old, a two-times Australian Open champion, also had to overcome jet lag after competing in the Fed Cup semi-final in Australia at the weekend.
‘‘I have no idea right now of the time or what’s happening,’’ she told reporters.
‘‘The flight from Australia was so long I felt like it was never going to end! It was a huge challenge for me today and I’m very happy with the way I handled it.’’
Azarenka will take on fourth seed and defending champion Karolina Pliskova next for a spot in the quarter-finals.