Rafael Nadal survives bumpy start at Roland Garros
Published 27/05/2013 | 15:39
Rafael Nadal recovered from the shock of losing the first set of his French Open title defence to world number 59 Daniel Brands by battling into the second round at Roland Garros.
Spain's Nadal - a seven-time champion in Paris - was stunned by the wicked serve of German hopeful Brands and lost the first set of a first-round match at a grand slam event for the first time in his career.
Brands threatened to take the second set, too, only to lose his concentration during a tie-break that handed the initiative back to the world number four, who steadily resisted the German's big hitting on his way to a 4-6 7-6 (7/4) 6-4 6-3 victory.
Since his return from an eight-month lay-off with a knee injury the Spaniard has won eight titles but he made an unconvincing start against 25-year-old Brands, only reaching 4-3 on his serve thanks to some fine groundstrokes.
The scoreline certainly suggested Brands had been holding his own and Nadal's poor forehand into the net gave him the crucial break point before a double-fault allowed him to serve for the set.
And Nadal returned to his chair dejected when Brands smashed a forehand winner down the line to take the first set 6-4 against the defending champion.
It was only the 15th set Nadal had lost in his 54 matches at Roland Garros.
Nadal's service game did not let him down in the second set but Brands was not budging either as the pair traded blows.
The match continued at breakneck speed and to serve with a tie-break following the recovering third seed's surprise failure to break the German in a tense 10th game.
And, despite his perseverance with a forceful approach, Brands threw away a two-point lead in the breaker to let his opponent streak back and take the second set.
The swagger returned to Nadal's step from that point forward and, after consolidating an early break in the third set, he resisted the snap on Brands' forehand to push on to a 6-4 win.
A break in the opening game of the third set had turned the tide in Nadal's favour and he managed to repeat the trick in the fourth when Brands netted a forehand.
Brands kept his side of the scoreboard ticking over with a range of classy forehand winners but a clutch of love services saw a relieved Nadal over the line.