• French Open, Day Two

Nadal survives scare to see off Brands

ESPN staff
May 27, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »

Rafael Nadal's French Open defence got off to a shaky start against Daniel Brands, who took the first set before the seven-time champion moved through the gears to wrap up a 4-6 7-6(4) 6-4 6-3 victory.

Nadal, playing his first grand slam match since his shock second-round exit at Wimbledon and subsequent injury layoff in 2012, looked a little subdued on his return to Court Phillippe Chatrier, in stark contrast to the nerveless German who was all too keen to take on the short ball at any given opportunity.

After a cagey start to the match Nadal forged an opening with his first break points of the set at 4-3, but world No. 59 Brands, whose flat ground strokes and attacking style conjured memories of Lukas Rosol's Wimbledon victory against the Spaniard, powered his way back to claim the next four points and level the scores.

It got even better for the big-hitting German in the next game as two Nadal double-faults handed him a break and the chance to serve out the set, which he did with a minimum of fuss.

Another chance to break Brands came and went soon after, but it wasn't until the midpoint of the second set that Nadal found his rhythm. Even then, as he began dominating the rallies and forcing Brands onto the back foot, the seven-time champion could not find a way through the German's serve.

Brands got off to the best possible start in the tie-break and raced out to a 3-0 lead, but with Nadal slipping and the court at his mercy he conspired to net a backhand, wiping out his advantage as the pair changed ends level at 3-3. That was all the invitation Nadal needed, and the Spaniard sealed the hour-long set with a blistering backhand return.

With Brands deflated, Nadal broke in the first game of the third set. The momentum was firmly with the Spaniard, who made 94% of his first serves to keep the pressure on his opponent, and while Brands refused to buckle, his hopes of finding a route back into the match were fading fast.

The start of the fourth set mirrored the third, with Nadal immediately breaking to assume control. Brands had no answer to the Spaniard in full flight and conceded the match with a second break.

In the day's other first round action, No. 6 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga got off to the perfect start with a 6-2 6-2 6-3 win over Slovenia's Aljaz Bedene.

The Frenchman, a potential quarter-final opponent for Roger Federer, simply outclassed and outran Bedene, who was playing just the second grand slam match of his career. There was better news for his countryman Grega Zemija, who cruised to a 6-1 6-4 6-1 victory over Colombia's Santiago Giraldo.

Australian 18-year-old Nick Kyrgios, the youngest player in the men's draw, pulled off the day's standout upset with a straight-sets win over veteran Radek Stepanek on his senior grand slam debut.

World No. 262 Kyrgios only earned a wildcard spot after the withdrawal of compatriot John Millman through injury, but defied the odds to edge out the 34-year-old Czech 7-6(4) 7-6(8) 7-6(11).

There was another upset soon after as Gael Monfils saw off fifth-seed Tomas Berdych.

Injury problems saw Monfils drop out of the world's top 100 and, now 81st, is playing at Roland Garros as a wildcard.

But he stunned title-contender Berdych 7-6(10-8) 6-4 6-7(3-7) 6-7 (4-7) 7-5 in just over four hours.

Elsewhere No. 13 seed Kei Nishikori defeated Jesse Levine of Canada 6-3 6-2 6-0, while Spain's Feliciano Lopez ground out a 7-5 2-6 6-4 4-6 6-4 victory over compatriot and No. 31 seed Marcel Granollers.

Germany's Tobias Kamke was also taken distance for a place in the second round, eventually beating Paolo Lorenzi of Italy 6-3 6-3 3-6 0-6 6-3, as was Uruguay's Pablo Cuevas, a 6-3 2-6 6-3 5-7 7-5 winner over Frenchman Adrian Mannarino.

No. 32 seed Tommy Robredo cruised past Jurgen Zopp of Estonia 6-3 6-2 6-1, while there were also first-round wins for Frenchman Edouard Roger-Vasselin, Russia's Evgeny Donskoy and Dutchman Igor Sijsling.

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