Ten-time winner Rafa Nadal showed why he is the hands-down Roland Garros favourite to extend his title tally at the French Open on Sunday week as he summarily dispatched Guido Pella of Argentina for the loss of just four games in three sets.
“I played a solid match. It’s true that during the match I improved my level,” said a very satisfied defending champion following his second-round victory.
I was staying positive but at some point you lose it, I had to regain composure Marin Cilic
As a fervent Real Madrid football fan, Nadal admitted he was surprised at the decision by Zinedine Zidane’s decision to resign as manager with immediate effect having just led the team to European glory for the third consecutive year.
“Of course it was a surprise for everybody,” Nadal commented. “Zidane is a top person. He’s a person that is tough to accept that he’s leaving for different reasons.
“For my side, I just can say thanks for all the things that he did for Madrid. I hope he will be back.”
As regards his own match, he was in imperial form even though he was scheduled on the smaller Suzanne Lenglen Court rather than the more illustrious main Court Philippe Chatrier.
It took the ‘’King of Clay’ three-minutes over two hours to secure his place in round three 6-2 6-1 6-1 and maintain his march towards that unprecedented 11th title.
It started stickily with Nadal having to repel four break points in the very first game against the world No.78, but he quickly took control of proceedings and it was never in doubt as to who was boss on the court.
It was Nadal’s 81st win in Paris, reaching the third round in all of his 14 trips to the French Open! Next up for the World N.1 is home favourite Richard Gasquet who outlasted Malek Jaziri 6-2 3-6 6-3 6-0.
While the left-handed Argentinian gave his utmost best it wasn’t enough as he dropped more than 50% of the points on his own games as well as defending18 break points only to be broken six times.
Meanwhile two of Nadal’s main challengers Marin Cilic and Dominic Thiem struggled into the last 32.
Third seed Croatian Cilic reached the third round for the eighth time with a 6-2 6-2 6-7(3) 7-5 win over Polish qualifier and world number 188 Hubert Hurkacz, aged 21.
Former US Open champion Cilic, who reached the quarter-finals in Paris last year, will face Steve Johnson of the US for a place in the last 16. However, it was a roller-coaster of a performance by newly-wed Cilic who cracked 48 winners but also 52 unforced errors.
“I was in control but played a poor third set so I had to start all over again,” the 29-year-year-old Cilic said. “I had to be positive, positive, positive. I screamed just to let it all out and I got the break in the 11th game.”
Cilic clinched the win on his first match point with an unreturnable serve and faces Steve Johnson in the next round, the American havvg see off Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany 46 7-6(5) 6-2 6-2.
“I lost focus a bit and he played much better. I missed a few balls in the tiebreak,” the 2014 U.S. Open champion said.
“I was staying positive but at some point you lose it, I had to regain composure.”
Seventh-seeded Thiem, a semi-finalist in 2016 and 2017, racked up his 31st win of the year.
The Austrian, the only man to beat world number one Rafael Nadal on clay this year, saw off Greek teenager Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-2 2-6 6-4 6-4 in a match which had been suspended overnight after the third set.
Next up for Thiem is Italy’s Matteo Berrettini, .
Denis Shapovalov, a future champion no doubt, has put down his run at Roland Garros down to experience. Seeded 24, the 19-year-old Canadian, lost his second-round match to Germany’s Maximilian Marterer but went down fighting.
The 22-year-old German, ranked 70, was made to work for his 5-7 7-6(4) 7-5 6-4 victory but he was helped by the young Canadian’s 82 unforced errors which clearly erased his 52 winners.
“I’m disappointed with the loss, but like I said, I’m only 19, so not every week is going to be a semi-final,” Shapovalov, who is coached by his mother Tessa and the Canadian Davis Cup captain Martin Laurendeau, said.
Also through is South Africa’s Kevin Anderson after a hard-fought match against Uruguay’s Pablo Cuevas.
Anderson won a four-set contest, 6-3 3-6 7-6(5) 6-4 after two-hours and 46-minutes, smashing down 21 aces and striking 44 winners.