Rafael Nadal played and won in his domain at the Bois de Boulogne, where he collected 13 titles, won 106 duels and a record 39 consecutive victories from 2010 to the quarter-finals in 2015.
The Spaniard made a winning start to his 18th tournament appearance. Nadal surprised Jordan Thompson 6-2, 6-2, 6-2.
Just before, the announcer had run out of steam while telling the CV of the Spaniard at Roland-Garros.
It was his 299th Grand Slam victory. Whoever makes 300 can be achieved on Wednesday against local player Corentin Moutet. Only Roger Federer (369) and Novak Djokovic (323) reached this magic number.
The king of clay had warned on the approach that he no longer had pain in his damaged left foot. This is why he has been training in doubles since his arrival in Paris.
He proved that against a lesser opponent who didn’t demand too much aggressive movement despite running to cushion shots with apparent freedom.
It had been raining all day in the French capital, but the power station cleared in time for the Spaniard.
Five of the first six points went to Thompson. Rafa didn’t even flinch because he was warming up. He knew it and so did the crowd, which filled up for the first time to see the eternal champion play.
In game three came the first break for the 21 Major champion. The expected. The Australian, 82nd in the ATP rankings, had won only 11 matches on clay as a professional. Nadal now has 468 wins and just 45 losses.
Rafa said he didn’t consider himself the favorite heading into the tournament, but his dominance of the event and the box says otherwise.
He entered as the fifth seed and only once was he further down the starting grid. It was in a difficult year in 2015, when he lost as the sixth seed in the quarter-finals against Djokovic.
Nadal does almost everything to perfection within the four walls of Roland-Garros. He had converted all four break points to take a 4-1 lead in the second set.
On the new Philippe Chatrier, on one of the side walls reads: “Victory is for the tenacious”. If there is a winning player, who likes to win and hates to lose, it is himself. It doesn’t matter that he turns 36 on June 3. Thompson had to sweat to earn each of his points.
A break against
The former world number one only got tangled in the sixth game of the second set where four unforced errors cost him the first break against. He shook his head. Immediately afterwards, he was able to regularize the situation so as not to prolong the outcome of the match with more threatening rain.
The Aussie’s resistance lasted until the fifth round of the third set after he fell to his knees in a drawn-out rally that ended with his racquet on the ground.
“I’m happy to go through the first round in three sets. I’m aware that it’s the first match”, Nadal said in his post-match interview.
“Paris is the most important place in my career, it’s the place where I experienced my greatest emotions.
“The court is spectacular, for me it’s still the same court, historic and I’m happy to be part of that story. At my age it’s a gift to be here and I’m going to do everything to give myself a chance.”