Ever since 2005, there has been a special connection between Rafael Nadal and Roland Garros. Rafa made a debut in Paris at 18, winning the title to become the last teenager with a Major crown and embracing an incredible Parisian run, winning 95 out of 97 matches at beloved clay Major.
Twelve of Nadal's 20 Major trophies came on Court Philippe-Chatrier, always feeling like at home while competing on it and producing his 100%, regardless of the opponent on the other side of the net. Chasing the 13th Roland Garros title, world no.
2 is off to a great start, winning the opening two encounters in straight sets and not spending too much time on the court. Roland Garros had to be moved from June to October due to the coronavirus, challenging the players to accept the cold and rainy conditions and new Wilson balls.
It is so far so good for the defending champion Nadal, who was pleased with the way he performed against Mackenzie McDonald in the second round. Nadal defeated the American 6-1, 6-0, 6-3 in an hour and 40 minutes, sailing into the last 32 for the 16th time in as many trips to Paris.
The Spaniard had 31 winners and 15 unforced errors, never facing a break point and stealing McDonald's serve seven times from eight opportunities to control the pace and race over the top. Both Nadal and McDonald lost nine points behind the initial shot in the first set, with a difference in the break chances, as the Spaniard facing none and converting both for 6-1.
Rafa lost four of those points in the opening game, holding after two deuces when Mackenzie netted a forehand. The American made a promising start with a volley winner in game two, only to fade from the court after that. Rafa secured the third game at love and drew first blood with a backhand down the line winner a few minutes later, stealing McDonald's serve at love to open a 3-1 gap.
Rafael Nadal likes to compete on Court Philippe-Chatrier, always giving his best.
The defending champion held after deuce in game five to cement the lead, earning another break in game six and holding at 30 with a forehand winner for 6-1 in 30 minutes.
Mackenzie had one winner and 11 unforced errors in set number two to suffer a bagel. Nadal broke at 15 in the first game when his rival netted a backhand, holding with a volley winner in game two to open a set and a break lead.
A former college champion sent a forehand wide in the third game to give serve away for the fourth straight time, reaching four deuces on the return in the next one but failing to create break opportunities. Crumbling the opponent with deep and powerful strokes, Nadal grabbed another break at 4-0 with a backhand down the line winner, securing the second set with a service winner in game six to open two sets to love advantage in 64 minutes.
Mackenzie ended his drought after dropping 11 straight games, holding with a backhand winner in the first game of the third set. Rafa scored a break in game three following a backhand slice mistake from the American, moving 2-1 in front and closer to the finish line.
The Spaniard clinched the fourth game with a volley winner before Mackenzie produced a fine thanks to a forehand winner to remain within one break deficit. A forehand winner delivered a hold at love for Rafa in game six, keeping his strokes on a high level and moving two steps away from the win.
Finding the rhythm on serve in those moments, McDonald landed a drop shot winner for the third comfortable hold, reducing the deficit to 3-4. Never putting a foot wrong, Rafa closed the eighth game with a service winner, forcing the opponent to serve for staying in the match.
Nadal landed a backhand crosscourt winner for another break in that ninth game, crossing the finish line and looking strong ahead of more challenging opponents. "I'm pleased with my performance today, and it will be another difficult match against Travaglia or Nishikori.
I hope to play at a good level. It's always exceptional to compete here in Paris, especially here on Court Philippe-Chatrier; I'm delighted to play here again. I am just trying my best every day, working hard to try to be better and better in every match. Today was not that cold, so that's the main thing; the conditions are not that bad," Rafael Nadal said.