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Nadal survives Brands scare to earn French victory

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Daniel Brands of Germany reacts during his men's singles match against Rafael Nadal of Spain at the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris May 27, 2013. Brands lost the match the Nadal. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler (FRANCE  - Tags: SPORT TENNIS)

Daniel Brands of Germany reacts during his men's singles match against Rafael Nadal of Spain at the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris May 27, 2013. Brands lost the match the Nadal. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler (FRANCE - Tags: SPORT TENNIS)

Daniel Brands of Germany reacts during his men's singles match against Rafael Nadal of Spain at the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris May 27, 2013. Brands lost the match the Nadal. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler (FRANCE - Tags: SPORT TENNIS)

RAFAEL NADAL suffered through a return to Grand Slam tennis that at one stage looked like it would be unthinkably brief.

Since coming back from seven months out with knee problems, the Spaniard has been almost untouchable, winning six of his eight tournaments.

The hot favourite to extend his record of Roland Garros wins to eight, a first-round match against Daniel Brands was expected to be nothing more than a routine run-out.

But, at a set and 3-0 down in the second-set tie-break, the exit door was almost within Nadal's sights.

German Brands had never won a main-draw match at Roland Garros.

Nadal, on the other hand, had never previously lost the opening set in the first round of any Grand Slam and has twice won the French Open without losing a single set.

Nadal had two chances to break in the eighth game, but Brands held firm and that set the nerves jangling for the Spaniard, who promptly gave his serve away with a double fault.

After clinching the first set, it would not have been a surprise to see the German's level drop, but he matched his illustrious opponent and was in control at 3-0 in the tie-break.

For the first time, he faltered and it was the chance Nadal needed, the 26-year-old going on to clinch a 4-6 7-6 (7/4) 6-4 6-3 victory.

Meanwhile, France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Slovenia's Aljaz Bedene 6-2 6-2 6-3, while Richard Gasquet defeated Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-1 6-4 6-3.

It was a good day for the seeds, with John Isner, Marin Cilic, Kei Nishikori, Julien Benneteau, Fabio Fognini and Tommy Robredo winning.

There was a first Grand Slam win for 18-year-old Australian Nick Kyrgios, who defeated 34-year-old Radek Stepanek in three tie-breaks.

Maria Sharapova began the defence of her title with a win against Hsieh Su-wei. Sharapova next meets Canadian teenager Eugenie Bouchard.

Rain delayed the start of first-round action today.

Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli, the 13th seed, was set to open proceedings against Belarussian Olga Govortsova with world number one Novak Djokovic up next against Belgium's David Goffin.


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