Nadal Opens Campaign For 12th Roland Garros Crown
Second seed wins 82 per cent of his first-service points
The Spanish superstar improved to an 87-2 record at the clay-court Grand Slam championship with a 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 first-round victory over German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann in one hour and 57 minutes on Court Philippe-Chatrier, which has been rebuilt over the past 12 months.
"I did a lot of things well," said Nadal. "I did not make many mistakes, being very solid all the time. [I'm] happy to be through to the second round, and that's the main thing today in straight sets, positive feelings. Every year is a new challenge... and today I was able to win the first challenge, and after tomorrow I am going to have the second challenge."
Nadal, who is one week shy of celebrating his 33rd birthday, is now 15-3 during this year’s spring European clay swing, highlighted by his ninth crown at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia in Rome (d. Djokovic). Growing in confidence, he now plays Germany’s Yannick Maden, who beat fellow qualifier Kimmer Coppejans of Belgium 7-6(0), 7-5, 6-3 in three hours and six minutes.
"I saw play Yannick last year [at the BMW Open presented by FWU] in Munich against Zverev," said Nadal. "So I remember a little bit of that. And then today with YouTube you can find things. I saw some highlights of his matches, and you have an idea. Of course it's different when you've never played before."
Nadal saved four break points in the opening game against Hamfmann, who struck a forehand into the net to hand the second seed a 2-0 advantage. At 3-1 up, Nadal won six of the next seven games through excellent service placement and by taking time away from Hanfmann. Afterwards Hanfmann admitted, "The first game a little bit disappointing. In the first game, I felt like I did some good returns. And obviously Rafa was also a bit nervous."
Hanfmann attempted to mix up his tactics in the third set, showing greater willingness to attack the net, but he proved to be a target for Nadal, who broke in the third game en route to his 112th win in 114 best-of-five-set red dirt matches. "It was a great experience for me," said Hanfmann. "The atmosphere, the court itself. It feels amazing to play there."
Maden, Nadal's next opponent, is into the second round of a Grand Slam main draw for the first time.
"Today I think it was, especially the first two sets but even the third one, a tough battle. He played also a lot from the baseline, like myself. Long rallies, long games. Lots of ups and downs. Tough mentally and physically," Maden said. "In the end great and maybe a little bit lucky as well especially the first set that I came through, because I had some set points against me. So in the end it was great to actually come out in straight sets because it wasn't that easy."
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Nikoloz Basilashvili, the 15th seed, was projected to meet Nadal in the fourth round if they both got that far. But Cordoba champion Juan Ignacio Londero upset the Georgian 6-4, 6-1, 6-3 in just one hour and 28 minutes. The Argentine will next face home favourite Richard Gasquet, who ousted German Mischa Zverev 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 in one hour and 39 minutes.
"I'm happy that I won and that I was able to win this match, to play matches, and now I see that day after day it's coming better and better," said Gasquet, who underwent groin surgery in January and played for the first time this year in Madrid. "I'm happy for me that I have a normal draw, first round, within my reach. But I have only been playing in tournaments for three weeks. I'm very happy. I'm not at my best level, but I'm happy to have won this match and I want to enjoy it."
In the same quarter of the draw, 19th seed Guido Pella beat his Argentine countryman Guido Andreozzi 7-6(2), 6-4, 1-6, 6-1. Pella leads the ATP Tour with 21 clay-court wins this season. He will try to earn his 22nd clay-court victory of 2019 against French wild card Corentin Moutet, who beat Russian qualifier Alexey Vatutin 6-4, 7-6(6), 6-4.
"It was a rather tense match, especially for the second set," Moutet said. "I knew I had a good player in front of me. It wasn't easy to play such a player."
Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic earned his first Grand Slam main draw win with a 6-0, 6-7(9), 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 triumph against American Denis Kudla. He will face 27th seed David Goffin, who advanced on Sunday, in the second round.