June 24, 2014
Rafa Nadal survived another first-round crisis to defeat Martin Klizan 4-6, 6- 3, 6-3, 6-3 in the battle of the “lefties” on Centre Court.
The Spaniard, who fell at the first hurdle last year, looked to be going the same way at one stage. But the French Open champion wasn’t calling it quits so easily this time around.
Unpredictable Nadal was a set down to Slovakian Klizan and faced two break points in the third game of the second set. But he survived a third break point before holding his serve to find a foothold. Pretty soon Nadal had broken to go 4-2 ahead and he never looked back, despite suffering a code violation just when he seemed to be closing in on victory.
Overall, Rafa produced a blend of power and acrobatics so seductive that he left us believing he might even be able to repeat his Roland Garros heroics here at Wimbledon.
Meanwhile Roger Federer squandered five match points but still beat Paolo Lorenzi comfortably on Court One.
The seven-times champion kept his cool to cruise through 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 in his Wimbledon opener. Only three men have won Wimbledon beyond the age of thirty – Rod Laver, Arthur Ash and Federer himself.
Roger still thinks he can take an eighth title, though he’ll need to be more ruthless than this against truly dangerous opponents.
Even so, we saw the majesty and elegance of the great man and he remains one of the finest sights in sport.
Federer said later: ‘It’s nice to get through the first round match, the grass is very green and slippery, and getting the first one out of the way is a great feeling. ‘Walking down the tunnel I’m very laid back and casual, but stepping out onto the grass you think “here we go, this is it,” you feel the pressure, I guess.’
If Roger felt pressure, it was only because of his extraordinary record at the All England Club.
The first two sets were very one-sided. Only with the finishing tape in sight did the “Fed” falter for a while. Coach Stefan Edberg shook his head in frustration as the master forgot how to close out at 5-2 in the third.
Italian Lorenzi, who had never won a Grand Slam match and still hasn’t, enjoyed his own belated resistance, and saluted the crowd for their support.
But there was only ever going to be one winner.
Federer joins the other big favourites in the next round. On the opening day, defending champion Andy Murray and former winner Novak Djokovic eased through in straight sets against their first opponents.
Nadal’s recovery means that we still have the big guns blazing in the men’s tournament.
Unlike last year, they have all survived their first ordeal.
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