Rafa Nadal off to winning start in Rio

Rafa Nadal beat Thomaz Bellucci in his opening match of the ATP Rio de Janeiro Open in Brazil.

Rafael Nadal made a winning return in Rio
Rafael Nadal made a winning return in Rio

The world number three returned to clay and made hard work of the first set against Bellucci before kicking into gear to seal a 6-4 6-1 triumph at Jockey Club Brasileiro.

A run of six straight games saw Nadal go 4-0 up in the second set, before Bellucci finally stopped the rot and held serve.

Bellucci, 27, then staved off two match points in his next service game but an unforced error on a third handed Nadal victory after 90 minutes.

The Spaniard, who overcame Alexandr Dolgopolov in last year's final next faces Pablo Carreno Busta in the second round after he overcame Carlos Berlocq 6-3 6-7 (3/7) 6-0.

World number nine David Ferrer saw off fellow Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-4 6-3 and explained afterwards that the 29-year-old qualifier pushed him harder than the scoreline suggests.

"I'm glad that I won," he told rioopen.com. "It wasn't easy in the first set, because Dani had a lot of chances, luckily he didn't take them. In the second, I felt a little bit better."

Fourth seed Fabio Fognini dug in to save three match points before coming back to see off 21-year-old Jiri Vesely 1-6 7-6 (9/7), 6-1.

Vesely was 6-3 up in the second set before world number 27 Fognini forced a tie break and turned the tide in his favour to book a meeting with Pablo Andujar in the next round after he beat Paolo Lorenzi 3-6 6-0 6-3.

Brazilian wild card Joao Souza delighted the home crowd with a 6-2 6-1 win over Argentinian qualifier Facundo Arguello to set up a clash with Slovakian Blaz Rola, who was 4-6 7-6 (7/3) 4-1 up when fifth seed Leonardo Mayer withdrew due to dehydration.

There were also wins for sixth seed Pablo Cuevas, Martin Klizan, Albert Montanes, Federico Delbonis and Juan Monaco.

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