LONDON • Rafael Nadal's late-season resurgence extended to the ATP World Tour Finals when he beat wayward French Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka 6-3, 6-2 to open his account on Monday.
The Spaniard, who has climbed back to fifth in the rankings after falling to 10th in a miserable season, took advantage of an error-strewn approach by Wawrinka to move level with Andy Murray at the top of the Ilie Nastase Group.
Nadal, back at the Tour Finals after missing out last year because of appendicitis surgery, dropped his opening service game to love.
But he proceeded to break Wawrinka's as the first nine points all went the way of the receiver.
Wawrinka blazed a forehand to fall 3-5 behind in the opener and Nadal sealed the set with an ace.
Was just a really bad day at the office...
It was a really bad match, bad behaviour from me in the second set. Hopefully, I can put it back together and get ready for the next match.
STANISLAS WAWRINKA on his feeble resistance against Rafael Nadal
Nadal failed to convert any of the seven break points Wawrinka offered up at the start of the second set and then had to save two himself in the next game, one with a stunning lob.
The world No. 4 offered precious little resistance after that and his unforced error count climbed to 35 as Nadal raced to victory.
"I think I played well. I think I played a solid match. I had one bad game, the first one of the match.
"But then immediately I was playing well," Nadal told reporters after the victory.
"I had a good week of practice here. I think I played the way that I wanted to play. I played aggressive. I played with not many mistakes.
"But for the rest, all the shots worked well - backhand, forehand, good volleys, good smash, no missing the smashes today.
"So that's good."
The Tour Finals is one of the few major prizes to have escaped Nadal during his glittering career.
Winning it this week would at least partially salvage a disappointing year in which he has lost a career-worst 19 matches so far.
The 14-time Major champion has won 14 of his 18 matches since his defeat in the US Open third round by Fabio Fognini, reaching finals in Beijing and Basel as well as the semi-finals in Shanghai.
He will face Murray today after the Briton also won his opening match against Spain's David Ferrer.
While Murray was unable to win a Grand Slam this year, his impressive consistency over the last 11 months has brought him to the verge of finishing second in the year-end world rankings for the first time.
He will now be guaranteed that milestone if he wins one of his remaining two group matches against Nadal and Wawrinka.
Wawrinka will have to improve dramatically against world No. 7 Ferrer if he is to keep alive his hopes of emulating last year's showing, when he lost to fellow Swiss Roger Federer in the semi-finals.
"Was just a really bad day at the office. Many little things, as I said, that were not good today," he said.
" It was a really bad match, bad behaviour from me in the second set.
"Hopefully, I can put it back together... for the next match."
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
ATP WORLD TOUR FINALS
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