Four days on from his shock semi-final loss to Fabio Fognini at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, Nadal committed 36 unforced errors (16 in the first set) in the windy conditions at the ATP 500 tournament, but grew in confidence on serve to complete a 6-7(7), 6-4, 6-2 second-round victory over Mayer in two hours and 50 minutes.
The 32-year-old, who has an outstanding 59-3 match record in Barcelona, will next challenge fellow Spaniard and former World No. 3 David Ferrer, who he beat in the 2008-09, 2011-12 finals. Nadal has a 25-6 record against Ferrer in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.
Top seed Nadal failed to close out the first set when serving at 5-3, and struck a forehand into the net at 5-4, with Mayer serving at 30/40. Two further set point chances for Nadal weren’t converted at 6/5 and 7/6 in the tie-break, before Mayer ripped a forehand winner at 8/7 to complete the 72-minute opener.
Nadal bounced back immediately, breaking in the opening game of the second set, which saw him lose seven of his service points and save one break point at 4-3, 30/40. He made his move in the fifth game of the decider with consecutive passing strokes to cheers of the capacity Pista Rafa Nadal crowd, and broke for a 5-2 lead courtesy of a forehand winner down the line.
Nadal has never lost consecutive matches on clay, on which he has compiled a 419-37 match record (.919) according to the FedEx ATP Performance Zone. Earlier in the day, Ferrer swept past No. 15 seed Lucas Pouille of France 6-3, 6-1 for a place in the third round.