Rafael Nadal, 31, made his first appearance since the 2017 Us Open Tennis Championships as an opening part of his Asian campaign. For the current world No. 1, the ultimate target of this segment is by far the Masters 1000 in Shanghai. Competing at an ATP 500 event is just part of a method to put things in order and to get rid of any rusty trace. What's truly extraordinary is the hunger displayed by the 31-year-old player.

He already has 65 matches under his belt in 2017 and with the current trend in place, he is likely to get past the 80 matches per season milestone. Seeded first in Beijing, Nadal had quite an opening venture as he had to confront Lucas Pouille in the inaugural round.

Rafael Nadal edged Pouille in three competitive sets of tennis

One thing is for sure; Lucas Pouille loves to compete against Rafael Nadal. Back in 2016, he did a tremendous job to recover from two sets to one to stun Nadal in the fourth round at the US Open. Today, he came as close as it can get to do it again but failed to convert two consecutive match points. Overall, the story of this rubber deserves few extra lines. The opening set needed only a single break of serve to chose which pocket it'll land. It was Pouille who broke Nadal in the fifth game to put his nose in front. A good delivery from his own serve gave Pouille the opening set.

A lot of things can be said about Nadal, but what he does best is to fight until the last ball. The second set saw both players maintaining an elevated level which provided the audience with a high-quality match.

There were few break opportunities from both sides, but none of them was converted. It all came down to a tie-break where all of the sudden the Frenchman saw himself one point away from a huge win. But he didn't handle the chances well doing two unforced errors which kept Nadal above the floating line. It was all that the world No. 1 needed to bounce back into the match.

Converting the first set point chance he pushed the match into a third set. Things were about to point out for another tie-break but Pouille had a horrible game of serve at 5-5. Being broken he allowed Nadal to serve out the match in the very next game. And the 16 times Grand Slam champion sealed it in no time surviving the opening round's scare.

The ATP 500 event in Beijing brings up a flurry of top players

Nadal is not the sole ATP star involved in the contest. This event has managed to draw in names like Alexander Zverev Grigor Dimitrov, Nick Kyrgios, John Isner or Juan Martin del Potro or Tomas Berdych. It's a tough draw by any given standards. The second round has quite a blockbuster next as Dimitrov will take on del Potro for a place in the quarterfinals. In the meantime, the No. 1 seed Nadal is on a collision course with Karen Khachanov (42 ATP). Rafael Nadal won the event only once back in 2005.