Reigning champion Rafael Nadal made his debut with victory in Montreal three years ago. Rafa beat Britain's Daniel Evans 7-6, 6-4 in two hours and one minute after some rain delays. It was Nadal's first hard-court match since he retired before meeting Roger Federer in March at Indian Wells.
It cost him a bit, but he did enough to seal the deal in straight sets. The Spaniard gave up 19 points on serve and received two breaks from as many opportunities offered to the British. On the other hand, Evans had an excellent performance after hitting the first serve.
Still, the second serve let him down, suffering three breaks to propel Nadal after wasting two set points in the first set tie-break. The Spaniard had 32 winners and 16 unforced errors. At the same time, Evans boasted a 28-20 ratio, earning more points in the shorter range, but losing the advantage in the mid-range and longer rallies that secured victory for the World No.2.
Rafa gave up serve in the first game of the match after pulverizing a forehand error. He got it back at 2-3 after a great attack and a backhand winner that put him back on the positive side. The momentum was now on Nadal's side of the court.
He served well for the rest of the set, keeping the pressure on the other side and creating two set points at 5-4. Determined to keep the points on his racket, Daniel went for the serve and the volley, saving both set points and extending the set.
The Briton gained momentum and created a 6-4 gap in the tie break. Rafa kept his cool and repelled both set points with two forehand winners. He got four points in a row for an 8-6 after 70 grueling minutes.
Andy Roddick on Rafa Nadal
While speaking on Tennis Channel, Andy Roddick pointed out that the Spaniard's management did well to get him to play his opening match as late as possible.
"Props to Rafael Nadal's management for getting him into that Wednesday night timeslot, giving him as much time as possible to get ready and get his practice reps in. But listen, you know Rafa's serious when he arrives at a tournament almost a week in advance to get used to the conditions in Cincinnati," Roddick said.
"I'm sure he's playing practice matches everyday. So, Rafa's not at this point - he would not sacrifice being healthy at the US Open to play in Cincy if he didn't feel like he could out play a healthy match on Wednesday night," he added.