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Rafa Nadal off and running at French Open Tennis with first-round win over Thompson on Monday

Rafael Nadal during the day two of Roland-Garros Open tennis tournament in Paris, France, on May 23, 2022. (Photo by Foto Olimpik/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

By Ricky Dimon

French Open first rounds are more often than not a cakewalk for Rafael Nadal.

Even though this tournament-opening result was nothing out of the ordinary, it had to be especially satisfying for the 13-time champion.

There were no signs of Nadal’s chronic foot problem while he destroyed Jordan Thompson 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 on Monday afternoon. Less than two weeks after suffering an injury-plagued loss to Denis Shapovalov at the Rome Masters, the 35-year-old looked good in all facets of the game as he advanced in a quick two hours and two minutes.

“(It) is a good start, of course,” Nadal assured. “Straight sets. That’s it. I mean, I played good for a while. Then (there were) things that I could do better and I need to do better. But (it) is a positive start; gives me a chance to have one more day of practice tomorrow and then another chance after tomorrow.”

The competition level will get tougher, sure, but how much better can the Spaniard be? He served at 65 percent, won 77 percent of the points even when he had to toss in a second serve, and broke Thompson a whopping seven times.

Giving a break back late in the second may have irked Nadal, but as a whole it was an encouraging performance after failing to lift the trophy in either Madrid or Rome. He also missed Monte-Carlo and Barcelona–not because of his foot, but due to a rib fracture. This is just the second time (also in the abbreviated 2020 season) that the 21-time Grand Slam champion arrived in Paris without having won a clay-court title.

“Of course the confidence is higher when you win Monte-Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid, or Rome,” Nadal said following Monday’s victory. “When you are winning more matches and more tournaments, you have better confidence. The opponents feel that, too, and at the end you are more used to the level that you need to play to win matches.

“When this is not the case, things are different. But I never expected to be winning 15 Monte-Carlos and Romes, so that’s the situation today. I got injured, and that’s it. What happened is past, and here we are. We are in Roland Garros.”

We are in Roland Garros.

That’s good news for Nadal, and could be bad news for everyone else.

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