After breezing through his opening round at the French Open, Rafael Nadal will hope to make similarly smooth progress when returning to the court on Thursday. Nadal beat Australia’s Sam Groth, surrendering just three total games, to kick off his attempt to win an unprecedented 10th title at Roland Garros, and will now face a first-ever meeting with Facundo Bagnis in the second round.
The Spaniard was in superb form in the first round, making only three unforced errors and losing just five points on his serve.
"It's obvious that this was a good start for me,” Nadal said afterward. "The most important thing I had to do was return well, and then play without too many mistakes. It's obvious that this opponent plays better on faster surfaces. In general I played a solid match. Feeling the support of the crowd is always special for me here, so thank you to them for that.”
Nadal tasted defeat at Roland Garros for just the second time last year when bowing out to Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals. But his hopes have been raised this year by a return to form on the European clay. In Monte Carlo lost month, he won his first Masters 1000 title in close to two years, before following it up by landing the title in Barcelona.
Although the 29-year-old suffered setbacks with defeat to Andy Murray in Madrid and Djokovic in Rome, he showed no ill-effects in putting the big-serving Australian Groth to the sword in just 80 minutes. But, while just one place separates Groth, at 100, and Bagnis, at 99, in the rankings, it will be a very different challenge for Nadal in the second round.
In contrast to the serve-volley game of Groth, Bagnis is an Argentine clay-court specialist likely to spend the vast majority of his time several feet behind the baseline. Although the fact that Bagnis is also a left-hander will neutralize some of the advantage Nadal possesses with his big top-spin forehand, anything other than a comfortable Nadal win would be a major surprise.
Bagnis’ first-round win over Kenny de Schepper was just his fourth win on the tour level this year. The victory was also just the 26-year-old’s second in the main draw of a Grand Slam, with his first coming in the opening round of last year's French Open.
Counting in Nadal’s favor to is the fact that he will be back on his favored Philippe-Chatrier Court, following a rare sojourn to Suzanne-Lenglen Court in the opening round. Another boost is that Nadal already knows that if he gets through against Bagnis, he will not face Fabio Fognini in the third round. The Italian, who upset Nadal at the U.S. Open, was ousted by Marcel Granollers in the first round.
Prediction: Expect Nadal to prevail over Bagnis in straight sets.
Match Time: The contest is second on the schedule on Philippe-Chatrier Court following a women’s singles match, which is set to begin at 5 a.m. EDT.
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