Ferrer took a tight 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-2) decision from Vasek Pospisil. Pospisil won two more points (94-92) over the course of the match but that was because of an advantage he built in the second set.
Ferrer opened the match with a break and added another later in the first set but didn't have another break opportunity the rest of the way before claiming the tiebreaker.
The battle for the world No. 1 ranking saw both Novak Djokovic, the current top-ranked player, and No. 2-ranked Rafael Nadal win in straight sets. Djokovic cruised to a 6-0, 6-3 win over Lukas Rosol in 53 minutes while Nadal was a 6-2, 6-4 winner over Santiago Giraldo.
Djokovic must repeat as the China Open champion and have Nadal lose before reaching the semifinals to retain the No. 1 ranking.
Seeded players went 7-0 Tuesday in the completion of the first round.
Fourth-seeded Tomas Berdych defeated Pablo Andujar 6-4, 6-1; No. 5-seeded Richard Gasquet was a 6-3, 7-6 (7-2) victor over Florian Mayer; sixth-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka got by Andreas Seppi 4-6, 6-3, 6-4; and No. 8 John Isner posted a 5-7, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 decision over Wu Di.