Shanghai:Second-ranked Rafael Nadal overcome a sluggish start to beat France's Richard Gasquet 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 on Sunday in the opening match of the Masters Cup.
With both knees taped, Nadal looked uncharacteristically slow and subdued as eighth-ranked Gasquet fended off an early break point, then broke Nadal as he served at 3-4 in the first set of the Gold Group round-robin match.
Nadal fell behind 0-40, won the next two points, then saw Gasquet send a stinging forehand winner down the line. The Frenchman finished off the set with a pair of service winners.
Gasquet's downfall began when he shanked an overhead into the net on game point while serving at 1-2 in the second set.
Nadal rallied to break when Gasquet tried a drop shot that fell well wide, and Nadal was suddenly fired up, pumping his fists while tracking down the Frenchman's array of groundstrokes and spins.
Gasquet, who saw his pro record against Nadal fall to 0-4, broke back in the next game, but Nadal broke again to pull ahead 4-2 and held serve to finish off the set and level the match.
With unforced errors piling up, Gasquet served at 30-30 at 2-2 in the final set. He thought he had an ace, challenged the out call and lost, then double-faulted.
He saved one break point, but back-to-back forehand errors then handed Nadal the last break he needed.
After the Spaniard cracked a clean winner on match point, he leaned back and shouted, his fists clenched.
Third-ranked Novak Djokovic of Serbia was to face Number 6 David Ferrer of Spain in the other Gold Group singles match Sunday.
Top-ranked Roger Federer, the defending champion, and the rest of the Gold group open play Monday at 15,000-seat Qi Zhong Tennis Stadium.
The US$4.45 million (euro3.03 million) Masters Cup features the top eight men's singles players and doubles pairs.