Wimbledon | Nadal eases back onto grass

Two-time Wimbledon champion Rafa Nadal began his campaign for a third consecutive Grand Slam title by taking out Argentina’s Francisco Cerundolo 6-4 6-3 3-6 6-4 to record his 306th victory at a major to equal Martina Navratilova’s total and share fourth place on the all-time list for most singles wins at Grand Slam level.

Having not played here for three years [it was difficult], but it’s great to be back. It’s always amazing to play on Centre Court Rafa Nadal

The win also sets him one step closer to the extremely elusive Calendar Grand Slam of all four majors in a season, but he needed to dig deep to secure his first win on grass in three years against a spirited Argentinian who had gained some confidence of his ability to play on the surface by winning a match at Queens.

The 22-time Grand Slam winner had to battle hard to clinch the first set and then conceded the third before coming from a break down in the fourth to secure his place in the next round against the Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis, who required just three sets to dispatch the big serving American Sam Querrey, a former semi-finalist 6-4 7-5 6-3.

“All credit to Fran. I think he started to play well and he was a very tough opponent,” Nadal said in his on-court interview afterwards.

“Having not played here for three years [it was difficult], but it’s great to be back. It’s always amazing to play on Centre Court.

“It’s not a surface we play on often; especially in my case, for different reasons. The last three years I didn’t [set] foot on a grass court. It’s taken a while; every day is a test, and today was an important test. Especially considering the physical state I arrived in, the victory allows me to train tomorrow with another match in two days.”

“It’s obvious that when you play well at Roland-Garros there isn’t much time between [the two events].

“I used to remember the beautiful days where I’d win Roland-Garros one day and the next I’d be practicing at Queen’s, but my body is not allowing me to do that [anymore].

“The most important thing for me is that I am at Wimbledon 2022 and I have won my first match.”

Nadal, the 2008 and 2010 Wimbledon champion, arrived at the tournament with question marks over his durability for the Fortnight having played the entire French Open with his troublesome left foot anaesthetised.

He has since undergone a course of radiofrequency stimulation, a treatment aimed at reducing nerve pain in his foot and while he started slowly on Tuesday, his game picked up and even though he dropped that third set, looked to be in overall control and unhampered by that foot.

And Chris Evert believes he can go all the way if said foot holds up. “He is a great grass-court player who has improved every year to shorten his swing, shorten his rallies, and he is effective at the net, winning more points than before.

“You could never count him out,” she said.



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