Nadal battles to win Masters Cup opener

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SHANGHAI, Nov 11 (Reuters) Spain's Rafael Nadal charged back from a set down to beat Frenchman Richard Gasquet 3-6 6-3 6-4 in the opening match of the Tennis Masters Cup today.

The French Open champion recovered from a sluggish start, winning his round-robin opener in a shade over two hours at the prestigious season-ending tournament in Shanghai.

Gasquet, who had lost all three of his previous matches against Nadal, took the first set after securing the crucial break at 4-3 with a forehand rocket down the line.

Nadal came to life in the second, the world number two breaking Gasquet to love for a 4-2 lead and levelling the match with a fierce serve to his opponent's body.

Gasquet battled gamely to stem the tide, but a pumped-up Nadal broke through at the same point in the decider and clinched victory with a textbook backhand volley.

''I finished much better than I started,'' Nadal told reporters.

''I finished the match playing more aggressive, going to the net more, serve-and-volley sometimes.'' The world's best clay court player pushed Federer to the limit in this year's Wimbledon final but believes he is still some way from catching the Swiss at the top of the rankings.

''This year I was closer to him. But 'close' is 995 points.

The Wimbledon final was a very important match but that's a lot of points.'' Serbia's Novak Djokovic was playing Spaniard David Ferrer in the second Gold Group match later on Sunday at the 4.45 million dollar eight-man event.

Federer, drawn in the Red Group, begins his bid for a fourth Masters Cup title in five years tomorrow.

REUTERS AB RN1655

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