BARCELONA, Spain — Rafael Nadal needed three sets to beat his 111th-ranked opponent in his first match at the Barcelona Open, while Fabio Fognini was disqualified for alleged verbal abuse.
Fognini was defaulted while trailing 6-0, 4-4 against qualifier Bernabe Zapata Miralles of Spain, after a line judge told the chair umpire that the ninth-seeded Italian had used foul language.
Fognini denied wrongdoing and was upset as he left the court, breaking his racket after hitting it at the net post on his way out.
“What happened to me was inexplicable,” he told Spanish media. “I’m going to investigate it. I paid for something that I didn’t do.”
Nadal had to overcome a slow start to defeat Ilya Ivashka of Belarus 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 at the clay-court tournament.
The Spaniard lost the first two games and struggled to hold his serve in the third. He recovered quickly after losing the first set and cruised in the second, then broke early in the third.
Nadal will face two-time Barcelona champion Kei Nishikori of Japan, who defeated Cristian Garin of Chile 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-1.
Nadal is seeking a record 12th title in the Barcelona tournament. He won the event six times in its last nine editions. The Barcelona Open was not played last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Nadal was coming off a three-set loss to Andrey Rublev in the quarterfinals of the Monte Carlo Masters last week.
Rublev advanced in Barcelona by defeating Federico Gaio 6-4, 6-3, while second-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas – who beat Rublev in the Monte Carlo final – cruised past wild-card entry Jaume Munar of Spain 6-0, 6-2.
Sixth-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta defeated Australian Jordan Thompson 6-4, 6-0, while Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada rallied to beat Italian Lorenzo Musetti 4-6, 6-3, 6-0. Diego Schwartzman came from behind to beat American Frances Tiafoe 3-6, 7-5, 6-1.