Rafa Routs To Kick Off His Wimbledon Stay
Sela competed well through the first six games, serving and volleying and matching Nadal from the baseline. But the two-time Wimbledon champion (2008, 2010) pulled away, winning 17 straight points from 3-3 in the opener to 1-0, 15/0 in the second set.
Nadal grew more comfortable, moving well and racing around his backhand to wallop forehands against the 33-year-old veteran, who beat American John Isner en route to the third round last year. The Spaniard attacked the net 29 times, winning 83 per cent of those attempts (24/29).
“I did things very well, and other things that I have room to improve. But you are not at all times happy, of course? It's a good start for me,” Nadal said. “I like these conditions. Being honest, life is much better with the sunshine there. [It] is happier. For the spectators, for the tournament, for the players, is better this kind of weather.”
The No. 1 player in the ATP Rankings didn't play a grass-court match before Wimbledon for the second consecutive year. He pulled out of the Fever-Tree Championships at The Queen's Club to recover from his record-breaking clay-court run. The Spaniard won 11th titles at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell and at Roland Garros, in addition to his eighth Internazionali BNL d'Italia title in Rome.
“I had a long clay-court season, a lot of matches. As you know, I had lot of problems in terms of physical injuries during my career. Of course, I will love to play on Queen's. That was my schedule, agenda. But after playing the final of Roland Garros and playing so many matches on clay, for my knees, the drastic changes are not good. So we decided to stop couple of days, then to start step by step on grass,” Nadal said.
“I did the same last year. Worked well. I lost here in the fourth round. But I felt I was in a position to fight for important things. I repeat: for me the most important thing is being healthy. That's the priority always.”
The 32-year-old Nadal is attempting to win the Roland Garros – Wimbledon double for the third time and tie Bjorn Borg’s record. The Swede accomplished the back-to-back sweep in consecutive years (1978-80).
Nadal, however, has struggled at SW19 in recent times. He last made the quarter-finals in 2011 when he fell to Novak Djokovic in the final. Last year, Gilles Muller upset the Spaniard in the fourth round. From 2012-2015 at Wimbledon, Nadal lost to a player with a triple-digit ATP Ranking: No. 100 Lukas Rosol in 2012, No. 135 Steve Darcis in 2013, No. 144 Nick Kyrgios in 2014 and No. 102 Dustin Brown in 2015.
But Nadal avoided another addendum to that footnote on Tuesday, and he can extend a more positive streak – his time at No. 1 – if he reaches the fourth round at the All England Club. Roger Federer will climb to the top spot if he wins the title and Nadal loses before the Round of 16.