Competing at Wimbledon for the first time since 2019, a two-time champion Rafael Nadal is safely through into the second round. Nadal did not play at his best on Centre Court, but it was enough to topple Francisco Cerundolo 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 in three hours and 33 minutes.
It's Nadal's 54th victory at Wimbledon and the 306th at Majors, matching Martina Navratilova's achievement. Rafa has earned 15 straight wins at Majors, conquering the Australian Open and Roland Garros earlier this season and setting eyes on his first Wimbledon crown since 2010.
Nadal will have to raise his level if he wants to fight for the title, struggling to find the right balance or impose his strokes. Rafa was miles from his best in the opener, struggling on the second serve and while trying to impose his strokes.
The Spaniard was two from ten after missing the first, and he hit four winners and 14 unforced errors! Still, it was enough for 6-4 after fending off four out of five break points and delivering two breaks from three opportunities.
Rafael Nadal defeated Francisco Cerundolo in the Wimbledon opening round.
Nadal opened a 3-1 gap before Cerundolo broke him in the next one to get back on the positive side. Facing an ultimate challenge in game nine, Rafa fended off three break points and converted the second break chance in the next one for 6-4 in 54 minutes.
The Spaniard raised his level in the second set and dropped only seven points in his games. The 22-time Major winner stole half of the first-serve return points and claimed a single break that made the difference. Rafa fended off that lone break point in game five and stayed in touch in the next one.
The Argentine squandered game points and sprayed an error that pushed him 4-2 behind. Cerundolo fended off two set points on serve in game eight to reduce the deficit before Nadal held at love in the next one for 6-4, 6-3 in an hour and 42 minutes.
With a boost on his side, Rafa broke in the third set's third game to move closer to the finish line. Francisco broke back at love a few minutes later with a return winner to lock the result at 2-2 and improve his chances.
Nadal landed a wayward volley to face two break points in game eight and saved the first with a forehand crosscourt winner. Rafa netted a backhand on the second to fall 5-3 behind and allow his rival to serve for the set. That tenth game turned into a roller coaster, with set and break points.
Cerundolo denied two break chances and seized the third set point for 6-3 and a boost. The Argentine converted the fifth break chance in the fourth set's game three to move in front. He saved break points in the next one and had four more opportunities that could have pushed him 4-1 ahead.
Nadal dug deep to deny them and remain within one break deficit. The Spaniard raised his level from 4-2 down and pulled the break back in game eight to lock the result at 4-4. He held in the ninth game and sent the pressure to the other side. Rafa broke again in game ten to rattle off four straight games and advance into the next round.