LONDON • Rafael Nadal might have been condemned to a lowly 10th seeding at Wimbledon but he remains a floater everyone will want to avoid after getting his campaign off to an impressive start with a straight-sets dismissal of Thomaz Bellucci yesterday.
The two-time champion, who has slipped down tennis' pecking order after 18 months of injury and below-par performances, showed glimpses of his power and determination in a 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 win over Brazil's Bellucci on a sun-drenched No. 1 Court.
The Spaniard initially struggled to calibrate his forehand and was wayward with his serving but he eventually settled and began smashing Bellucci into submission with his heavyweight backhand.
The match fell into a pattern of Bellucci holding his own early in the rallies before finding himself stretched and eventually beaten by Nadal's superior power and accuracy.
It reached its natural conclusion in just over two hours, the ideal preparation for Nadal as he attempts to nurse his battered 29-year-old body through two gruelling weeks.
WIMBLEDON, 1st rd
(selected, at press time)
Men: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (Fra) bt Gilles Muller (Lux) 7-6 (10-8) 6-7 (3-7) 6-4 3-6 6-2, Samuel Groth (Aus) bt Jack Sock (USA) 6-3 3-6 6-3 6-3, Fabio Fognini (Ita) bt Tim Smyczek (USA) 6-4 6-3 6-2, Dustin Brown (Ger) bt Lu Yen-hsun (Tpe) 3-6 6-3 7-5 6-4, Benoit Paire (Fra) bt Mikhail Youzhny (Rus) 6-4 6-4 6-3.
Women: Evgeniya Rodina (Rus) bt Laura Robson (Gbr) 6-4 6-4, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Rus) bt Mona Barthel (Ger) 6-7 (3-7) 7-6 (7-4) 6-2, Elina Svitolina (Ukr) bt Misaki Doi (Jpn) 3-6 6-3 6-2, Garbine Muguruza (Esp) bt Varvara Lepchenko (USA) 6-4 6-1.
Another stalwart, Roger Federer, began his 63rd consecutive Grand Slam event with a majestic 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 first-round win over little-known Bosnian Damir Dzumhur.
The Swiss second seed's pursuit of a record eighth title at the All England Club could not have started more convincingly as he broke the Wimbledon debutant five times to draw rapturous applause from the tennis fans who had flocked to the Centre Court yesterday.
The 33-year-old started off with an unreturnable serve and threw in some crowd-pleasing volleys, before finishing off Dzumhur with a love service game to chalk up his 74th victory at the citadel of grasscourt tennis.
Earlier, defending women's champion Petra Kvitova picked up where she left off last year with a blistering 6-1, 6-0 victory over Dutch world No. 108 Kiki Bertens.
The victory will remind everyone that the Czech will not be giving up her title easily.
On a picture-perfect day, with temperatures around 30 deg C, Kvitova had expected to be nervous as she "opened" the women's event in the traditional slot reserved for the holder, especially after pulling out of the Eastbourne warm-up event because of a virus.
But, in front of a packed crowd on Centre Court, including her parents, Kvitova played with the freedom of a reigning champion as she raced to victory in 36 minutes, dropping one point on serve in the match.
"Of course, I was very nervous before the match," she said.
"But stepping on the court, with all the people clapping, the atmosphere was unbelievable.
"I'm really glad I played so well.
"I think it is better than in 2012 when I was defending my first Wimbledon title.
"But nerves are healthy as long as they are not too much."
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN
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