On one of those days he likes so much, with sunshine and bearable heat (27 degrees) in the Philippe Chatrier, Rafa Nadal took the first step towards the possible 14th title at Roland Garros, which would be the 21st Grand Slam, magic numbers that would place him as the sole dominator of the history of the majors, ahead of Roger Federer (20) and Novak Djokovic (18). The Spaniard warmed up with a solvent victory, without fanfare but neat, against Alexei Popyrin, whom he had beaten a few weeks ago at the Mutua Madrid Open. This time, the 21-year-old Australian and 63rd in the world worried him a bit more, but he ended up kneeling again before the king of the earth, who won by 6-3, 6-2 and 7-6 (3) in two hours and 23 minutes. With these three, he has already won 300 in his favorite event.
In the second round, Nadal will meet an old friend and contemporary, the Frenchman Richard Gasquet, who clearly beat his compatriot Hugo Gaston (6-1, 6-4 and 6-2). It will be a nightmare duel for the Beziers tennis player, on whom he weighs 16-0 against in his duels against the Spanish.
Decent player 😉@Rafael Nadal | #Roland Garros pic.twitter.com/h280JjyP40
– Roland-Garros (@rolandgarros) June 1, 2021
There was not much public (about a thousand spectators) to greet the premiere of Nadal in his fetish track, but those who attended enjoyed and cheered the legendary count of titles that the usual presenter of the matches does every time the multi-champion plays: “2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020”. The first two sets were pretty nondescript. Time passed until the inevitable breaks of Rafa, who treated the ball quite well and served with great decency for the first day of a tournament.
There was only a certain emotion when in the third set, Popyrin surprised with an unexpected break that consolidated for 5-2 and then served with 5-3 and had two set balls. At times, he cherished the possibility of being the third player to win a set against Nadal in the first round in his 17 appearances, after American John Isner (2011) and German Daniel Brands (2013). However, when push comes to shove, the young and inexperienced aussie he wrinkled, chained several errors of bulk and conceded a 5-1 that took the sleeve to the tiebreaker. It could be worse, because with 5-5 he raised four break points. In the tie-break, Nadal’s experience got the better of Popyrin’s acceleration, which deflated. The number three in the world picked up the rhythm and power of the blow. He has time and scope to improve. He is on his way to maximum glory. In the locker room he met his great rival, Novak Djokovic, when he left the track. The Serbian began his career a few hours later against the American Sandgren.
Results, table and calendar.