Nadal seeks redemption in Beijing
Nadal dropped just two games to 39th-ranked Italian Paolo Lorenzi, as top seed Andy Murray dismissed Andreas Seppi to book his place in the second round.
Rain delayed play on all courts other than the roofed National Tennis Stadium until the evening.
Fourteen-time Grand Slam champion Nadal is approaching the end of his second consecutive season without a Slam title since he won his first aged 19 at Roland Garros in 2005.
He has repeatedly fended off questions about his future in the sport since he was forced out of the French Open third round with a wrist injury that also saw him miss Wimbledon.
“When you get injury for two months and a half in the middle of the season (it) is tough,” Nadal said after his first round match in Beijing.
“(There) remains a little bit to finish the season. Today is an important victory. There are points to try (and win) to qualify for the World Tour Finals,” he added.
Nadal is currently eighth on the leaderboard for the London ATP Finals — which features the year’s top eight players — and needs to pick up some points in Beijing to ensure his qualification.
Until the wrist injury forced him off the court, Nadal had showed signs of a renaissance this year after his worst season as a professional in 2015, which saw him plumet to his lowest ranking in a decade.
But he has failed to get past the fourth round of any of the Grand Slams this year and just missed out on a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics.
Meanwhile on the women’s side, double Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova — fresh from her victory at the Wuhan Open last week — showed little mercy for home hope Wang Yafan beating her 6-4, 6-1 to reach the round of 16.