Tennis: 'Nervous' Nadal avoids historic first-round exit
Rafael Nadal admitted the pressure of playing John Isner got to him as he came close to the most stunning of French Open defeats before hitting back to win his first Roland Garros five-setter 6-4 6-7 (2/7) 6-7 (2/7) 6-2 6-4.
No defending men's champion has ever lost in the first round at Roland Garros.
In the end that record remained intact as the world No 1, whose only previous defeat on the Paris clay came against Robin Soderling in 2009, responded like a champion to set up a second-round meeting with fellow Spaniard Pablo Andujar.
Asked what he was thinking at the end of the third set, Nadal said: "They were tough, tough moments for me. I only had one break point against me during the whole match. It's true I didn't play well in the tie-breaks, I played too nervously.
"The first break in the fourth was very, very important.
"If it went to the tie-break, I was in big danger. When I got the break and when I won the fourth, I knew in the fifth there was no tie-break."
British fourth seed Andy Murray was broken twice in a 6-4 6-1 6-3 victory over Eric Prodon, a 29-year-old local qualifier.
Women's second seed Kim Clijsters outfought Anastasia Yakimova of Belarus 6-2 6-3 to prove her fitness.
The Belgian had not played for almost two months after injuries, including an ankle problem that she picked up at her cousin's wedding.
In-form Maria Sharapova added the sunshine with a yellow dress as she routed Mirjana Lucic 6-3 6-0 and while Ana Ivanovic rivalled the Russian in the fashion stakes with a pink number, the tearful ex-champion lost 7-6 0-6 6-2 to Johanna Larsson of Sweden.
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