Nadal dispatches Popyrin on his Roland Garros debut

He won 6-3, 6-2 and 7-6 (3), after saving two set points in the third. Play Thursday against Gasquet, whom he dominates 16-0

Nadal backhand volley off Popyrin.Christophe SomeAP

When Alexei Popyrin double faulted in his first option to take the third set and sent a shot to the stands at the second opportunity, it was clear that he was not going to even be able to boast of having won a set at Rafael Nadal at Roland Garros, an estimable conquest against a player who conceded his last set in this tournament in the 2019 final against Dominic Thiem. Row until the tiebreaker, but the 13-time champion won 6-3, 6-2 and 7-6 (3), in two hours and 23 minutes of a match that governed with ease until he lost his serve in the sixth game of the third partial. At the beginning of his way to the fourteenth title and twenty-first Grand Slam, with which he broke the equality with Roger Federer on the historic roof of tennis, it was enough for the Spaniard with a correct match to win a place against Richard Gasquet, whom he has won in his 16 crosses,This Thursday, the day he will turn 35.

More content than in Madrid, in his only and recent previous confrontation, where he left with a double 6-3 after winning the first seven points of the match by the brave, Popyrin, delivered his service in the seventh game, and with him the first partial. Dressed in his new outfit after the purple uniform of the entire previous ground tour, Nadal appeared before the 1,000 spectators of the Philippe Chatrier with more errors than usual and three double faults at the beginning, venial sins against an unarmed player when the serve was not supported.

Too many concessions

The whole predicament of Popyrin, the 2017 junior champion, winner this year in Singapore, called, at 21, to revitalize the sleepy Australian tennis, began to be compromised when he lost service again at the start of the second set. Too many concessions to the world number three and emperor of the earth, who with his tenth victory at the Masters 1000 in Rome has strengthened his candidacy for a new title. Popyrin only managed to give continuity to his service and be able to apply himself with the forehand when he already had the impossible match.

Nadal complied and came out of the trance in the first difficult situation that came his way, without wearing himself out excessively, an important issue when it comes to two weeks of competition. On a sunny Parisian afternoon, he took the first step towards the most ambitious challenge of his extraordinary career. “The beginning of the game was difficult because he was throwing bombs all the time. He is young and fast and his ball speed is incredible,” he commented at the foot of the court after his victory.

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