Bouncing back after a couple of poor years due to injuries, Rafael Nadal was back at the top in 2017, winning two Major titles and hoping for more in the following year. The Spaniard embraced a light schedule in 2018, playing only 49 matches and skipping the season's last part following the US Open defeat to Juan Martin del Potro.
A few weeks earlier, Nadal made a winning start in Toronto, beating Benoit Paire 6-2, 6-3 in an hour and 14 minutes for the fourth victory over the Frenchman from as many encounters. It was Nadal's first test following that epic Wimbledon semi-final defeat to Novak Djokovic, and he played a solid match to control the scoreboard and march over the top.
Also, Nadal grabbed the first victory in Toronto in eight years and secured the 358th Masters 1000 triumph. The Spaniard dropped 45% of the points behind the initial shot, although Paire could not do much, converting three out of five break opportunities.
Rafael Nadal made a winning start in Toronto 2018, beating Benoit Paire.
The Frenchman needed more to stay competitive following a terrible performance in his games, landing 33% of the first serve and allowing Rafa to break him six times and move over the top in just over 70 minutes.
Nadal had nine winners and ten unforced errors, and Paire counted to 18 direct points and almost 30 mistakes, which plagued his chances. Former champion saved a couple of break chances in the opener's game five and delivered two breaks in games two and eight to sail in front.
The second set saw a hold for Rafa in games one and nine and no less than seven straight breaks in between, three for Paire and four for Nadal! The Spaniard stayed ahead and captured the victory with a good holt at 5-3 to set the third-round clash with Marton Fucsovics or Stan Wawrinka.
"If you lose a bit early at Wimbledon, you can take a couple of days off and have more time to practice for the hard court season. And if you play a good Wimbledon, you have less time to prepare for the next event. Anyway, you need some period off the court after probably the most challenging period of the year for me, mentally and physically.
It's better to play a good Wimbledon than a bad Wimbledon, and it does not matter if you have shorter preparation. I feel that I was not at my 100% today. I indeed did good work here in the last five days, but at the same time, I did not work very hard at home.
I just did the basics to come back to the competition. The first match is important, and it's good for my confidence. It was not about the serve but more about mistakes from the baseline," Rafael Nadal said.