Nadal Forced To Fight At Roland Garros
Rafael Nadal was tested more than he would have preferred, but the Spaniard returned to Court Philippe-Chatrier victorious on Tuesday at Roland Garros. The 10-time champion's first-round match against Simone Bolelli of Italy was suspended by rain at 6-4, 6-3, 0-3 late Monday evening.
But Nadal, a champion in 2005-08, 2010-14 and '17, seized momentum from the start and saved four set points in the third-set tie-break to advance to the second round 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(9).
“He was a very aggressive player, and he was playing very strong. I didn't know that he was going to play so aggressively. I understood that I really had to attack, and I had to have the proper mindset, be positive, and accept how things were unfolding, and he was playing very well,” Nadal said.
“There were few transition shots where I could manage to pick up my pace. But I managed to do it, and that was the important thing today.”
It was Nadal's first tie-break at Roland Garros since his 2013 semi-final against Novak Djokovic, and the Spaniard was a shot away from dropping a set in Paris for the first time since 2015 (Djokovic). Last year, Nadal was pushed to 6-4 in a set just three times, and he never dropped a set all tournament.
But the Spaniard navigated through in straight sets, marking win No. 80 in Paris (80-2) and improving to 105-2 during best-of-five clay-court matches. He will next meet Argentina's Guido Pella, who beat Joao Sousa of Portugal 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 in another match carried over from Monday because of rain. Nadal won their only prior FedEx ATP Head2Head matchup in straight sets at the 2017 BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
The Spaniard was especially challenged on serve against the free-swinging Bolelli, who, like on Monday, took his chances from the middle of the court. At 3-4, Nadal fell behind 0/40 and had to erase four break points.
But Bolelli didn't fade away, taking his opportunities and holding for 6-5 to place the pressure back on the top seed. The 32-year-old Italian led 6/3 in the tie-break and had the set on his racquet at 6/5. But the Nadal stepped up, running around his backhand to get to 6/6 before erasing another set point at 6/7.
Bolelli later saved three match points himself, but during the 20th point, the Italian netted a forehand and Nadal celebrated another straight-sets win.
“He played well, playing with lot of risk but having success with all of the risk that he took,” Nadal said. “For me, it was difficult to find 100 per cent, the rhythm, because I didn't have so many points that I could take the advantage and hit three, four balls with the right position.”