Rusty Rafa Tested In Opener; Murray Begins Title Defence
by ATP Staff|
World No. 1 and two-time Rogers Cup champion Rafael Nadal prevailed in the longest tie-break of his career en route to a 7-6(12), 6-3 win over Swiss No. 2 Stanislas Wawrinka on Wednesday night in Toronto.
“It’s never fun to play tie-breaks like this because lots of pressure in every point,” said Nadal. “But if you win, it gives you a lot of confidence, so always important win tie-breaks.
“I have a little bit of everything today being the first match after a while without competing. I had difficult moments. I had moments that I played well. I played more aggressive in the second set on the return. So I did a little bit of everything, and that's very positive.”
Nadal looked rusty in his first singles match since the 4th of July Wimbledon final, committing 27 unforced errors to 14 winners in the opening set. Though he broke Wawrinka to take a 3-2 lead, he relinquished the advantage in the next game.
Wawrinka earned the first set point on Nadal’s serve in the 10th game, but the 24-year-old Spaniard saved that opportunity and four more for the Swiss in the tie-break. The World No. 1 also had his fair of chances in the tie-break, finally converting on his fourth set point when Wawrinka netted a return.
After a 92-minute first set, Nadal needed about half that time to win the second. He rolled out to a 4-1 lead and made just nine unforced errors as he improved to a perfect 6-0 record against Wawrinka.
Nadal’s 14-12 tie-break matched the longest of his career. Two years ago at the Rogers Cup, he lost the first set tie-break to Richard Gasquet by the same score before going on to win the next two sets 6-2, 6-1.
The Spaniard is contesting just his fifth hard-court tournament of the season and his first since reaching back-to-back semi-finals at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournaments in Indian Wells and Miami.
“I feel good, so I came here with big motivation to play my best level, my best tennis,” he said. “Here it’s gonna be a challenge for me because it’s the first tournament [since Wimbledon], but every day improves a little bit.”
Nadal, who leads the circuit with a 48-5 match record and five titles, will next face South African qualifier Kevin Anderson for a place in the quarter-finals.
Anderson knocked out 16th-seeded American Sam Querrey 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-4. Querrey, last year’s Olympus US Open Series Bonus Challenger winner, had claimed his fourth title of the season two weeks ago in Los Angeles with victory over World No. 4 Andy Murray.
In his opening match, defending champion Murray fell behind an early break, but recovered to post a 7-5, 6-2 win over Belgian Xavier Malisse. The fourth seed prevented Malisse from serving out the first set at 5-4 as he finally converted on his fifth break opportunity, and broke the Belgian again to assume the lead. He closed out the match by winning the final four games.
“The first match for anyone in any tournament is always difficult, and you don't normally feel that comfortable,” said Murray. “Once I got that break [at 5-4], I settled down a bit.”
“I need to have a little bit more energy maybe right at the beginning of the match, just be more energetic from the start. That normally helps,” said the 23-year-old Scot. “Sometimes when you aren't feeling your best, you need to force yourself to move and really put emphasis on your footwork and your movement, and I'll probably do that tomorrow.”