Nadal saves two match points in massive China scare

World No.1 Rafael Nadal has saved two match points to avoid a shock defeat in the first round of the China Open, seeing off Lucas Pouille in three sets.

The Frenchman broke Nadal on the way to taking the first set 6-4 and the world No.23 came within a whisker of sealing an upset when the second set went to a tie break.

But Nadal, 31, with the Beijing crowd backing him on the outdoor hard court, held his nerve when twice staring defeat in the face and fought back to win the tie break 8-6.

The pair headed into a final-set shootout and again Pouille refused to buckle, Nadal getting the critical break of serve in the 11th game before serving for the set and match 7-5.

Rafa was fired up after the win. Image: Getty

Nadal, a 16-time Grand Slam champion, tumbled and lost a shoe at one point, and said afterwards he was fortunate to be in the second round, where he plays Russia's promising Karen Khachanov.

"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 narrowly avoided the fate of fellow Spaniard and top-ranked Garbine Muguruza, who exited in the first round on Monday when she retired from her match with a virus.

Also into the second round is the second seed Alexander Zverev, who saw off Britain's Kyle Edmund 6-3, 7-6 (7/3).

Nick Kyrgios, Juan Martin del Potro, the American John Isner and third seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria also all went through.