Wednesday June 27, 2012
Nadal makes slow-burning start with win over Bellucci
ALL ENGLAND CLUB (JUNE 25 – JULY 8)
FORMER champion Rafael Nadal survived an early scare to kick off his bid for a third Wimbledon title with a 7-6 (7-0), 6-2, 6-3 victory over Brazil’s Thomaz Bellucci in the first round yesterday.
Nadal, the winner in 2008 and 2010, appeared to be suffering a hangover from his record-breaking seventh French Open triumph two weeks ago as he allowed world number 80 Bellucci to race into a 4-0 lead in the first set on Centre Court.
But the second seeded Spaniard, who lost in the final to Novak Djokovic last year, quickly regained his composure to canter through to the second round.
“It’s always tough to make the change from clay to grass, especially when over the last couple of months I played almost every match on tour. Physically you start having some troubles,” Nadal said.
“He started well, with some good serves, and after that I had more mistakes than usual and I was very lucky to come back from 4-0.
“But I’m very happy to be back on probably the best court in the world and winning in three sets is good for me. Every time I have the chance to play here I try to enjoy it.”
Winning the opening set in a tie-break seemed to break Bellucci’s resolve and, with normal service restored, Nadal powered through the second set in typically aggressive fashion.
Although Nadal is rightly regarded as the king of clay after his remarkable achievements at Roland Garros, the 11-time Grand Slam winner is fast becoming equally dominant on grass.
He has reached the final on his last five appearances at the All England Club and there was an inevitability about the way he battered his fellow left-hander into submission.
Bellucci stuck with him until midway through the third set when a booming Nadal forehand secured a break for a 4-2 lead and the Spaniard was soon serving out the win.
The 26-year-old, bidding to equal Bjorn Borg’s feat of winning the French Open and Wimbledon back to back on three occasions, will face Ivan Dodig or Lukas Rosol for a place in the last 32.
Meanwhile, defending champion Petra Kvitova reached the Wimbledon second round yesterday with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Akgul Amanmuradova of Uzbekistan, but only after surviving an early struggle.
The Czech, who became the first woman born in the 1990s to win a Major when she beat Maria Sharapova in the 2011 final, fought back from 3-0 and 4-1 down in the first set before seeing off Amanmuradova, who has now lost all her five first round appearances here.
Once Kvitova had reeled off seven successive games to take the first set and lead 2-0 in the second, the 22-year-old was comfortably in control, managing to shrug off a brief rain delay at 40-40 at 5-3 in the second set.
“It’s unbelievable to come back as defending champion,” said Kvitova, who started her 2011 title-winning campaign out on Court 15.
World number four Kvitova will now face either Italy’s Karin Knapp or Elena Baltacha for a place in the last 32. — Agencies