LONDON – Rafael Nadal returned to the field with a stutter but steady on Tuesday, beating 41st place Argentine Francisco Cerundolo 6-4 6-3 3-6 6-4 in the first round of the tournament. Wimbledon to start the campaign to win the third Grand Slam title of the year.
The 36-year-old second seed, who hasn’t competed at Wimbledon since 2019 and stayed away from the warm-ups because of a chronic foot condition, was likely to move through the game until a series of irresistible errors allow Cerundolo to return.
“It’s not a surface that we play often, especially in my case, in the last three years I haven’t set foot on grass at all,” Nadal told the Center Court crowd.
“Every day is a test and I’m at the top of the league and the predicament (according to that) I got here.”
– Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) June 28, 2022
Nadal won the first set after unusually netting and forcing Cerundolo to hit a backhand forehand. A little skip and a fist punch and the Spaniard is on his way.
He won the second set after breaking serve in the sixth game and serving love.
But 23-year-old Cerundolo, who broke into the top 100 only in February, picked up pace in the third set and found her way with her explosive forehand to put the two-time Wimbledon champion in the back leg.
Nadal, who has also won 20 other Grand Slam titles, looked tired in the face of the onslaught, losing the set under pressure with a backhand into the net. He then dropped serve in the fourth round as Cerundolo’s confidence and energy increased.
But Nadal, who won the Australian Open in January and the French Open earlier this month, is nothing but a boxer. He regrouped and used all his experience to fight back.
Cheered by a packed center court, he broke his now nervous opponent’s serve twice to close the game and set up a second-round draw with Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania.
“Three years away… it’s great to be back and I can’t thank (everyone) enough for the support,” said Nadal.
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