French Open

Nadal off to flying start

2015-05-26 16:49
Rafael Nadal (AFP)

Paris - Rafael Nadal began his campaign for a 10th French Open with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 win over world number 296 Quentin Halys on Tuesday.

The brutal, quickfire demolition of the 18-year-old Frenchman threw down the gauntlet to top seed Novak Djokovic, who followed Nadal onto Court Philippe Chatrier to face Finnish veteran Jarkko Nieminen.

Nadal, seeded a humble six this year -- his lowest for a decade -- needed just one hour and 50 minutes to record his 67th career win at Roland Garros.

The 28-year-old Spaniard, who is seeded to meet Djokovic in the quarter-finals, came into the tournament without a European claycourt title for the first time since 2005 and with many in the sport writing him off as a spent force.

But in a cheeky riposte to his critics, the 14-time major winner played with the number '9' stitched into the heels of his tennis shoes to remind people of his astonishing record at the tournament where he has only ever lost once.

Halys, making his Grand Slam debut, was broken five times and made 52 unforced errors.

Nadal, meanwhile, goes on to face either compatriot Nicolas Almagro or Ukraine's Alexandr Dolgopolov for a place in the last 32.

"He was aggressive and took risks. This is the way of modern players. They hit the ball stronger and quicker because they go for winners all the time. But that means there are more mistakes," said Nadal.

"I played well. I changed direction with my forehands down the line. After the first three games I was moving better.

"I have had ups and downs this season. I am trying to avoid that happening here. But I am here to play well and compete. That is my mentality and the goal is always the same."

Djokovic, bidding to win a first Roland Garros and become just the eighth man to achieve the career Grand Slam, is scheduled to face Nadal in the quarter-finals.

But his first job later Tuesday was to take on world number 87 Nieminen, one of 39 men over 30 to start the main draw this year.

Djokovic, already with the Australian Open under his belt this year, takes a 4-1 career record over left-hander Nieminen into their encounter.

Wimbledon champion and fourth seed Petra Kvitova needed two and a half hours to see off New Zealand's world number 80 Marina Erakovic 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, getting broken six times and committing 47 unforced errors.

The 25-year-old goes on to face Silvia Soler-Espinosa of Spain.

Kvitova was a semi-finalist in Paris in 2012 and had clinched the claycourt title in Madrid earlier this month.

But she struggled throughout large parts of Tuesday's match against an opponent she had previously defeated four times out of four.

"It was a very close, tough match but I always expect that at the beginning of a tournament," said Kvitova, who was a break down in both of the opening sets.

Spain's David Ferrer won his 300th claycourt match when he swept past Slovakia's Lukas Lacko.

Ferrer, 33 and seeded seven, won 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 to become just the second active player behind Nadal to win 300 matches on the surface.

Ferrer, the Roland Garros runner-up in 2013, goes on to face compatriot Daniel Gimeno-Traver.

Croatia's Marin Cilic, the ninth-seeded US Open champion, defeated Robin Haase of the Netherlands 6-2, 6-4, 6-2.

Svetlana Kuznetsova, the 2009 champion, beat Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 and could face 2010 winner Francesca Schiavone in the next round should the Italian see off China's Qiang Wang.

Fifth seed and former world number one Caroline Wozniacki won through to the second round, beating Italy's Karin Knapp 6-3, 6-0.

Italian Knapp came into the event having claimed her second career title in Nuremberg last week.

But she was the architect of her own downfall with a total of 50 unforced errors, and Wozniacki now goes on to face Germany's Julia Goerges.

Later Tuesday, women's top seed Serena Williams, the 2002 and 2013 champion, starts her 14th Roland Garros against the Czech Republic's Andrea Hlavackova.

The 190th-ranked Czech lost 6-0, 6-0 to Williams in their only other meeting three years ago at the US Open.

Canadian sixth seed Eugenie Bouchard, who made the semi-finals in 2014, plays France's Kristina Mladenovic.

Read more on:    atp tour  |  french open  |  rafael nadal  |  tennis

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