Rafael Nadal embraced a light schedule in 2018, playing 49 matches and wrapping up his season after the US Open. The Spaniard entered a Masters 1000 event in Toronto as one of the favorites, seeking his first Canada Masters crown since 2013.
Nadal faced Benoit Paire in the second round, scoring a 6-2, 6-3 triumph in an hour and 14 minutes and beating the Frenchman for the fourth time in as many encounters. It was Nadal's first test following that epic Wimbledon semi-final defeat to Novak Djokovic.
He played a solid match to control the scoreboard and march over the top to preserve energy, although he wished for more reliable groundstrokes. Nadal grabbed the first victory in Toronto in eight years and secured his 358th Masters 1000 triumph.
The Spaniard dropped 45% of the points behind the initial shot, losing serve three times but still controlling the pace.
Rafael Nadal made a winning start in Toronto 2018 after beating Benoit Paire.
The Frenchman needed more to stay competitive after a terrible serving performance.
Benoit landed in 33% of the first serve (!!), 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 18 direct points and almost 30 mistakes, which plagued his chances.
The former champion saved a few 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, setting the third-round clash with 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 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.
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