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Former French Open Tennis Stars • Serena And Rafa Both Win in Paris

Rafael Nadal of Spain reacts after winning against Simone Bolelli of Italy during their men’s first round match during the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros in Paris, France, 29 May 2018. EPA-EFE/CAROLINE BLUMBERG



Nadal, Serena off to winning start at French Open–but not with complete ease


By Ricky Dimon


On paper, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams did not have overly tough first-round opponents at the French Open. Nadal went up against lucky loser, while Serena’s opener came against the No. 70 player in the world. But Simone Bolelli and Kristyna Pliskova are both much more talented than the paper suggests.


Neither favorite lost a set, but neither match was simple.


Nadal kicked off his bid for an 11th French Open title by beating Bolelli 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(9) in a battle that lasted two hours and 57 minutes across two days. Rain delayed it on Monday evening with the Italian leading 3-0 in the third set, after which Nadal erased the deficit to force a tiebreaker–which he won in dramatic fashion.


“He was a very aggressive player, and he was playing very strong,” the world No. 1 said of Bolelli. “I didn’t know that he was going to play so aggressively. I understood that I really had to attack, and I had to have the proper mindset, be positive, and accept how things were unfolding. He was playing very well.


“There were few transition shots where I could manage to pick up my pace. I managed to do it, and that was the important thing today. He played well, playing with lot of risk–but having success with all of the risk that he took. For me, it was difficult to find 100 per cent, the rhythm, because I didn’t have so many points that I could take the advantage and hit three (or) four balls with the right position.”


Serena also survived one tiebreak set during her trek to round two. Playing her first match since Miami in late March, the former world No. 1 beat Pliskova (the other Pliskova) 7-6(4), 6-4 in one hour and 45 minutes. She fired 13 aces and recorded 29 winners to 25 unforced errors, a commendable ratio especially on clay and in her first match back. Serena recovered from a 3-0 deficit in the first-set ‘breaker and also erased an early 2-0 deficit in the second set.


“She played better than I expected, so it was a tough match,” Pliskova praised.


Serena agreed.


“I feel like I’m on the right track,” Serena assessed. “I have been putting a lot of work in on the court.”


Next up for the 36-year-old is Ashleigh Barty, while Nadal’s second-rounder will come against fellow left-handed Guido Pella. The Argentine made surprisingly quick work of Joao Sousa in the first round.


Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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