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By Richard Pagliaro | Monday, May 23, 2022


Rafael Nadal broke serve seven times sweeping Jordan Thompson 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 raising his Roland Garros first-round record to 18-0.

Photo credit: Getty

Rapping his Babolat racquet against the side of his sneakers, Rafael Nadal cleaned the clay from his soles.

Driving shots with menacing intent, Nadal dispensed a competitive contusion in his Roland Garros return.

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Launching his quest for a record-extending 14th Roland Garros crown, Nadal knocked out Jordan Thompson 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 to roll into the second round.

It was a statement start for Nadal, who improved to 18-0 in Roland Garros openers. Nadal raised his career Roland Garros record to a mind-blowing 106-3 scoring his 299th career Grand Slam victory.

The king of clay played territorial tennis zapping his topspin forehand into both corners with conviction. Nadal converted seven of 11 break points, punished Thompson with whirling spin and dizzying angle and flashed 27 winners against 21 unforced errors.

The 35-year-old Spaniard entered this Roland Garros in an unfamiliar position with some citing world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and others tabbing 19-year-old phenom Carlos Alcaraz as the top two favorites from the congested top half of the draw.

That sounds sacrilegious given Nadal has transformed Court Philippe Chatrier into his home court complete with a super-size statue of the Spaniard that looms large on the grounds. Nadal thrives on repetition and preparation so the questions swirling around his return are: How will his cranky foot hold up and can he regain the title without the confidence that comes from winning clay-court titles ahead of this French Open?

"Of course the confidence is higher when you win Monte-Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid, or Rome," Nadal said. "Without a doubt, things are easy in this world to understand, no? When you are winning more matches and more tournaments you have better confidence. The opponents feels that too, and at the end, you are more used to the level that you need to play to win matches.

"When this is not the case, things are different... I got injured, and that's it. What happened is past, and here we are. We are in Roland Garros. I am here to try my best."

Tennis Express

Nadal traveled to Paris with a doctor to provide daily treatment to the foot issue that sidelined him for about six weeks after Indian Wells. Playing twisting shot combinations Nadal was striking with vigor today.

The 82nd-ranked Thompson is at his best on faster surfaces—he reached the round of 16 at the 2020 US Open—and took the court with four opening-round exits in his last five Roland Garros appearances. The feisty Aussie barked at himself after misses and brought plenty of spirit, but lacked the weapons to trouble Nadal.

Commanding the center of the court, Nadal was whipping his topspin forehand with precision.

Embed from Getty Images

Three games into the second set, Nadal sprinted sideline to sideline dipping a chip backhand at Thompson’s feet to sneak out a point he played primarily on the defense. The Aussie played a point about as well as you can play it on clay against Nadal and still lost. That draining exchange left Thompson leaning on the net for support like a punch-drunk boxer backed into the ropes seeking reprieve.

About the only lapse in Nadal’s game at 4-1 in the second set when he played a sloppy game to drop serve. Nadal responded breaking right back and serving out the second set at love.

The fifth-seeded Spaniard reeled off the final five games to streak into the second round.

Next up for Nadal is French drop shot artist Corentin Moutet. The French wild card toppled 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(2), 6-3.


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