French Open favorite and the King of Clay Rafael Nadal survived a scare from Germany’s Daniel Brands to advance to the second round. He won 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4, 6-3.
Nadal started off well before Brands started to shake him up. His serves forced Nadal to stand 45+m behind the baseline and Nadal could not keep up. He is known for his forehand, but Brands forced him to play tight and go with his weaker backhand. Brands came up and defeated Nadal 6-4 in the first set.
The second set was no better for Nadal. He could not read Brands or figure out his weakness. His heavy hitting on both the backhand and forehand still had Nadal playing way behind the baseline. A double fault in the first set and horrible play on service kept him out of the game. He played with frustration and even snapped at a ball boy. Brands went up 3-0 in the tie break.
Nadal fought back and won the set. Momentum swung his way and stayed on his side of the court. He regained his form and strength. He was better on service (94%) and forced Brands to move around. Brands quickly tired and Nadal took advantage. He came back and easily won the last two sets 6-4, 6-3.
This is Nadal’s first Grand Slam tournament in almost a year. He stopped playing after he hurt his knees at Wimbledon last year. He is trying to become the first man to win eight French Opens.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images.