Roland Garros

Nadal sees off Popyrin to advance to French open second round

Rafael Nadal is seeking a record extending 14th French Open men's singles title.
Rafael Nadal is seeking a record extending 14th French Open men's singles title. © Pierre Rene-Worms/RFI

Rafael Nadal began the defence of his French Open title on Tuesday with a straight sets win over Alexei Popyrin.

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The Spaniard, searching for a record-extending 14th French Open title, started solidly against the big-serving Australian.

It was level pegging until the seventh game when Nadal carved out his first break point with a backhand pass after luring his opponent to the net.

A mishit forehand coughed up the break for Nadal to lead 5-3. Nadal's third ace of the match furnished hime with three set points and he wrapped up the initial skirmishes after 39 minutes.

His roll continued. He rattled off another four consecutive games to take control of the second set which he pocketed 6-2.

Chance

The hiccup came in the third when Popyrin managed to break his illustrious opponent to lead 4-2. Some big serving and big forehands helped him to consolidate for 5-2.

Nadal at least forced the 21-year-old to serve for the set at 5-3 up.

During the next game though, Popyrin showed his potential and inexperience. A rasping forehand winner brought up set point but a fourth double fault returned the score to deuce.

Another big serve and forehand gave him a second set point but a diabolical overhead smash destroyed the previous good work.

A wild forehand coughed up the break point and another forehand blunder made it 5-4 instead of 6-3.

Feasting on the charity, Nadal levelled at 5-5. And then the tiebreak only existed in name for Popyrin.

He was quickly 6-1 down but at least fired off two winners to make the end scoreline look respectable. Nadal applied the coup de grace soon after to claim it seven points to three. And the tie.

"I think I played a good match," said Nadal after the two hour and 23 minute encounter.

"Alexei was playing bombs at the start of the match. His serve is huge and the speed of his ball is impressive. He's also fast around the court. I don't know how I won the set ... I found a way. I was lucky." 

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