Rafael Nadal wins thriller at China Open while Dominic Thiem suffers Tokyo exit
Dominic Thiem suffers surprise exit from Japan Open as Milos Raonic advances
By Raz Mirza
Last Updated: 03/10/17 6:44pm
World No 1 Rafael Nadal survived two match points to defeat Frenchman Lucas Pouille in his opening match at the China Open in Beijing while Dominic Thiem crashed out of the Japan Open.
The Spaniard extended his winning run to eight wins in a row after his recent US Open triumph, and was forced to showcase his battling qualities to record a 4-6 7-6 (8-6) 7-5.
Pouille broke Nadal on the way to taking the first set, and the world No 23 came within a whisker of sealing a shock victory when the second set went to a tiebreak.
But Nadal, with the Beijing crowd backing him, was helped massively when the 23-year-old netted a simple forehand on his first match point, before the 16-time Grand Slam champion fought back to take it 8-6.
The duo headed into a final-set shootout and Nadal broke Pouille's resistance in the 11th game before serving for the set and match in two hours and 31 minutes of enthralling action.
"He played well, I think, very aggressive. He's serving well," said Nadal, who lost to Pouille the last time they met, at last year's US Open. "For me it was a little bit difficult at the beginning, then I started to play better.
"But still, I didn't have the control of the match for almost all the time. I am very, very happy to be through."
Nadal is chasing a first title in Beijing since 2005 as he looks to maintain his healthy lead over Roger Federer for the coveted year-end top spot in the remaining tournaments in 2017 and next takes on Karen Khachanov after the Russian star beat China's Di Wu 6-4 6-2.
Britain's Kyle Edmund was beaten by second seed Alexander Zverev 6-3 7-6 (7/3).
The British number two was outplayed in the first set but put up a good fight in the second and served to take the match to a decider at 5-4.
However, he played a poor game and, after saving two match points to force a tie-break, slipped to defeat.
Third seed Grigor Dimitrov overcame Damir Dzumhur 6-1 3-6 6-3 while John Isner beat Malek Jaziri 6-2 6-3.
Australian Nick Kyrgios wasted little time in seeing off Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-1 6-2 serving 12 aces to close out the contest in under an hour as Juan Martin Del Potro saw off fellow South American Pablo Cuevas 7-6 (7-4) 6-4.
In Tokyo, American Steve Johnson dropped the opening set before claiming the biggest scalp of his career as he battled back for an upset victory over second-ranked Dominic Thiem 4-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 in the first round of the Japan Open.
Canada's Milos Raonic looked sharp on his return from wrist surgery as he battered Serbian Viktor Troicki 6-3 6-4.
The third seed, who was forced to sit out the US Open due to a persistent problem with his left wrist, displayed very few signs of rust after a seven-week absence, taking just 71 minutes to secure his place in the last 16.
Raonic next plays Yuichi Sugita, who took the first set 6-4 from Benoit Paire when the Frenchman retired with fatigue.
Elsewhere, Richard Gasquet, former Japan Open finalist, upset American sixth seed Sam Querrey 6-4 7-6 after clinically winning the second-set breaker 7-2.
Jared Donaldson fought hard against seventh seed Tomas Berdych, but ran out of steam in the decider as he went down 6-3 0-6 6-2. The Czech will face Andrey Rublev next after the youngster bounced back to eliminate Jack Sock 3-6 6-1 6-2.
Sky Sports Tennis will have all the action from the ATP China Open, Japan Open and Shanghai Masters before the action heads to Paris.
The Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan and season-ending extravaganza World Tour Finals at London's O2 in November end another memorable year which will covered via our website www.skysports.com/tennis with live blogs and updates as the season reaches its climax.
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