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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

French Open 2020: Rafael Nadal & Dominic Thiem cruise through Paris openers

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal is bidding for his 20th Grand Slam title, which would move him level with Roger Federer’s all-time leading men’s tally

Spain’s 12-time champion Rafael Nadal encountered few problems as he started the French Open with a three-set win over Belarusian Egor Gerasimov.

Nadal, 34, wrapped up a 6-4 6-4 6-2 victory in two hours five minutes against the world number 83, who was making his main-draw debut in Paris.

American Mackenzie McDonald, ranked 211th, is Nadal’s next opponent.

US Open champion Dominic Thiem also moved into the second round with a 6-4 6-3 6-3 win over Croatia’s Marin Cilic.

The 27-year-old Austrian, who won his maiden Grand Slam title in New York a fortnight ago, has lost to Nadal in each of the past two finals at Roland Garros.

The pair have been drawn in the same half of the men’s singles, meaning they could only meet in the semi-finals this year.

Nadal is seeded second behind Serbia’s world number one Novak Djokovic and says the rearranged tournament will provide the “toughest conditions” yet for him.

The 19-time Grand Slam singles champion, who is aiming to move level with Roger Federer’s all-time leading men’s tally, has only played one clay-court event going into Roland Garros and the cooler conditions are not as beneficial to his game.

Although the scoreline against Gerasimov was comfortable, he was given a decent workout by the Belarusian.

“I’m not going to make a mistake – the attitude and motivation is always here,” Nadal said.

“It is a different Roland Garros to the one we are used to and the conditions are very challenging. I’m happy to be in the second round – it is a good start.”

‘I’m Austrian so know how to play in these conditions’

Dominic Thiem
Dominic Thiem lost to Rafael Nadal in the 2018 and 2019 finals

Thiem took the upper hand in his match against former world number three Cilic when he broke in the ninth game on his way to sealing the first set.

Cilic, who made 39 unforced errors, was flustered by Thiem’s defence, suffering two more breaks in the second set.

Two poor volleys in the sixth game of the third earned the two-time runner-up the crucial break en route to victory.

The third seed will play American qualifier Jack Sock in the next round.

Thiem said he was happy he managed a successful transition from playing on hard courts in the heat of New York two weeks ago to performing on clay in damp 13C conditions in Paris.

“I’m from Austria so know how it is to play in cold conditions,” he added. “When I was in the juniors I played in 10 degree weather.”

What happened elsewhere in the men’s draw?

There were two surprises in the early afternoon matches, with 14th seed Fabio Fognini and Canada’s 19th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime dumped out of the competition.

Italian Fognini, 33, suffered a 7-5 3-6 7-6 (7-1) 6-0 defeat by Kazakh former top-50 player Mikhail Kukushkin. And Auger-Aliassime, 20, who reached the fourth round at Flushing Meadows, lost 7-5 6-3 6-3 to Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka.

Russian fourth seed Daniil Medvedev, a US Open semi-finalist this month, faces Marton Fucsovics of Hungary on Suzanne Lenglen.

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