Rafael Nadal had to dig deep in his first Wimbledon match a year ago, ousting Francisco Cerundolo 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 in three hours and 33 minutes! Rafa played his first match since the Roland Garros final and struggled a bit to find the rhythm.
Cerundolo praised Nadal's initial shot, saying it surprised him a bit. Nadal used his serve to get out of jail several times, painting lines and avoiding spending more time on the court. Rafa was miles from his best in the opener, struggling on the second serve 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 return games. Nadal opened a 3-1 gap before Cerundolo broke him in the next one to return to 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 to keep the pressure on the other side.
A 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 used the rival's error in the next one for 4-2.
Cerundolo fended off two set points on serve in game eight to reduce the deficit before Nadal held at love 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.
Rafael Nadal defeated Francisco Cerundolo in the first round at Wimbledon.
Rafa netted a backhand on the second to fall 5-3 behind and allow his rival to serve for the set. That tenth game became a roller coaster, with set and break chances everywhere.
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 and closer to a decider.
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 a few minutes later 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. "I was very surprised by Rafa's serve. You might think he sets it up or throws it upside down. Still, I was surprised by his placement: he served on the line in all the important moments, at deuce or while saving a break point," Francisco Cerundolo said.
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