© Getty Images

Rafael Nadal in action against Francisco Cerundolo on Tuesday at Wimbledon.

Nadal Survives Cerundolo Scare

Spaniard seeking third Wimbledon title

Rafael Nadal didn’t have things all his own way Tuesday, but he stepped up when needed to reach the Wimbledon second round for the 14th time.

Competing on grass for the first time since 2019, the Spaniard showcased his trademark fighting spirit to overcome a tricky test from Francisco Cerundolo, advancing 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 after three hours and 36 minutes.

"First of all, all the credit to Fran. I think he started to play great and [was] a very tough opponent," Nadal said in his on-court interview. "It's obvious that for me it's been three years without being here, without playing on this amazing surface, so very happy to be back. For me, it's always amazing playing here on this court and I can't thank everyone enough for the support."

ATP WTA LIVE | Follow the Pepperstone ATP Race To Turin In Real Time

In front of a packed crowd on Centre Court, Nadal survived a mid-match comeback from the Argentine, who was making his debut at The Championships. After winning the first two sets, the 36-year-old suddenly found himself a break down in the fourth set.

However, with the pressure on, Nadal raised his intensity and increased his depth on return to regain control and improve to 31-3 on the season.

The second seed is seeking a record-extending 23rd Grand Slam title, having won the first two majors of the year for the first time in his career. He will face Ricardas Berankis in the second round after the Lithuanian defeated Sam Querrey 6-4, 7-5, 6-3.

"It's not a surface that we play very often, and especially in my case, for different reasons, as I said the past three years I didn't put any foot on a grass court, so it always takes a while," Nadal said. "It was my first match and as I know, every day is a test and today was one of these important tests.

"I know at the beginning of the tournament especially, under the circumstances that I arrived here, the victory is the most important thing because that gives me the chance to practise tomorrow again and to have another match in two days. I'm happy for that, without a doubt."

Nadal made a fast start in his first meeting with Cerundolo, striking 13 winners across the first two sets as he controlled proceedings and found his feet on the lawns in London.

But, from seemingly down and out, the World No. 41 began to turn the tables in dramatic fashion. After clinching the third set, Cerundolo broke again at the start of the fourth set, winning a mammoth 12-minute game to add further fuel to his fight.

Closing a set out is never easy when you are playing Nadal, though, and it proved to be the case, with the World No. 4 rolling off the final four games from 2-4 to secure his win.

Cerundolo was aiming to reach the second round at a Grand Slam for the first time. The Argentine's best result this season came at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Miami, where he advanced to the semi-finals. His breakthrough run propelled the 23-year-old from No. 103 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings to No. 51.

More stories like this in: