World number one and heavy French Open favorite Rafael Nadal finally came through a drawn-out first round encounter against Italian lucky loser Simone Bolelli on Tuesday, with the Spaniard coming from a break down and saving four set points on the resumption of match today to reach the second round.
In a match that started last night, Nadal had not found things too comfortable against Bolelli, who replaced Alexandr Dolgopolov after the Ukrainian pulled out, though broke to seal the first set and then came from a break down to seal the second. However, Bolelli was a break up in the third last night before rain halted play, and though he quickly lost that advantage, pushed the ten-time champion hard, with the top seed eventually prevailing 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(8) on Court Philippe Chatrier.
Heavy favorite Nadal pulls through opening round encounter
Unsurprisingly, Nadal once again comes into Paris as the heavy favorite to win what would be a staggering 11th title at Roland Garros, and though he was not quite at his best either last night or this afternoon, he will likely still be satisfied after beating a surprisingly resilient opponent.
Bolelli proved slightly troublesome for Nadal last night, saving three break points early in the opening set and not handing many opportunities to the Spaniard after that, though could not threaten on his opponents serve, and Nadal raised his level to break at 5-4 and take the first set. Surprisingly, Nadal found himself a break down early on in the second, as the Italian impressively took a 3-1 lead, though he could not maintain his level, and five straight games for the world number one saw him take a decisive two set lead. However, he once again found himself trailing in the third set, with Bolelli 3-0 up before rain ended play for today.
When play started again this afternoon, Bolelli got off to an incredibly poor start, making multiple errors as Nadal evened up proceedings in the third. However, Nadal was unable to run away with proceedings, and would have found himself 3-5 down had he not saved four break points. Despite a poor start to the day, Bolelli resisted any pressure he faced on his own serve, and was able to force a tiebreak with Nadal unable to make any further progress. The Italian dominated the early stages of the breaker, with a minibreak seeing him have three set points at 6-3 up, and other at 7-6, though some superb tennis saw Nadal claw his way back in, and he converted a third match point to progress almost twenty hours after the first point of the match.
The result was closer than many expected, with Bolelli deserving of a lot of credit for testing Nadal like he did, though overall it was a solid performance by the defending champion, hitting 30 winners and 25 unforced errors in just under three hours of action. He faces Argentinian Guido Pella next.