Auckland - Four-time champion David Ferrer had to call on all of his experience to beat Chinese teenager Wu Yibing 7-6 (7), 6-4 on Monday in the first round of the ASB Classic in New Zealand.
The 35-year-old Spaniard, ranked 37th in the world and seeded seventh for the ATP Tour event, overcame difficulties in both sets before beating the 18-year-old Wu, ranked 314, in just under two hours.
"I think experience was the key," a relieved Ferrer said after the see-sawing match on centre-court. "I have 18 years on him so I tried to play with all my experience in important moments."
Wu, the US Open junior champion and the world's top ranked junior, made a nervous start and dropped serve in the opening game. But he broke Ferrer in a marathon sixth game which extended to five deuces and in which he held four break points.
There was almost nothing between the players and rallies regularly ran to more than 20 shots.
The first set went to a tiebreak in which Ferrer took an early 4-0 lead. But Wu stormed back and had two set points at 6-4 before Ferrer eventually prevailed to win the set after 73 minutes.
Ferrer broke Wu to lead 4-2 in the second set but Wu broke back at 5-4 then slipped up in the 10th game, going down break point and then double faulting to concede defeat.
"He was very tough," Ferrer said. "The juniors are coming and it was not easy.
"It was my first match this year which is never easy and the most important thing is I can win the match and I hope I will play better next round."
Ferrer's second round opponent will be last year's beaten finalist Joao Soa of Portugal who beat American Donald Young 6-7 (8), 6-4, 6-2.
Sousa was strong on serve, sending down nine aces and winning 92 percent of points when he put his first serve in play. Young struggled in contrast, offering 14 break points and saving 10.