Nadal and Federer progress

Rafael Nadal made a successful debut in Olympic singles today, overcoming numerous missed chances by sweeping the final four games to beat Potito Starace of Italy 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.

Top-seeded Roger Federer had an easier time. He began a bid for his first Olympic medal by beating Dmitry Tursunov 6-4, 6-2.



Nadal played doubles but not singles at the Athens Olympics in 2004. He's playing both at Beijing, staying in the athletes' village and hoping to sustain a summer surge that has assured him of the No. 1 ranking next week.



"I am very happy to be here," Nadal said. "Just trying to enjoy 100 per cent the experience, and later try my best on court."



No. 4-seeded Serena Williams won all four games when her match resumed after an overnight wait to complete a rain-interrupted victory over Olga Govortsova of Belarus, 6-3, 6-1.



Like Nadal, Williams was playing her first singles match at the Olympics. She won a gold medal in doubles in 2000 with her sister Venus.



"It's a great thing going out there playing for your country," she said.



Williams said she skipped Beijing's opening ceremonies because she goes to bed early, and she decided against staying in the athletes' village because she likes privacy. Last week she visited the village, where she was a popular subject for those seeking photos and autographs.



"I was bombarded with lots of people," she said. "It was a lot. I can't count. But it was cool, I guess."



In men's play, Nicolas Massu of Chile opened his bid to repeat as Olympic champion by beating Steve Darcis of Belgium 6-4, 7-5. Massu won gold at Athens in both singles and doubles.



Nadal played the 10:30 a.m. match on center court, and at times it appeared he needed a wakeup call. He struggled on the backhand side, and shook his head or rolled his eyes when usually reliable strokes misfired. Because of Beijing's oppressive humidity, Nadal said, he was changing his shirt every 10 minutes.



A highlight-reel rally got him going in the third set. Nadal sprinted into the alley near the net in pursuit of a ball and scooped a forehand winner cross-court as he braked to avoid running into the post, then fell to his back. He rose and threw a jubilant fist, leaving behind a wet patch on the court.



After failing to convert seven consecutive break-point chances in the second and third sets, he broke for a 4-2 lead in the final set. He erased a 15-40 deficit on his serve in the next game, then broke again for the victory.



"I had a lot of opportunities. I didn't convert, so that was tough," Nadal said. "But I was winning the serves without problems. He had more problems than me when he was serving, so that gave me confidence."



Seeded second, Nadal is on a roll after beating Federer in the finals at the French Open and Wimbledon. The latter result compounded Federer's yearlong slump, and regardless of the outcome at Beijing, he'll be supplanted atop the rankings by Nadal next week.



Federer has won only two tournaments in 2008, and an Olympic gold medal would help him salvage the year after he was shut out of the medal chase at Sydney in 2000 and at Athens in 2004.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks
tv

Regular cast member Ste Hay, played by Kieron Richardson, is about to test TV boundaries

Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
techPerils of 'text neck' revealed
News
i100
News
Stonewall CEO Ruth Hunt
peopleStonewall boss says many fear it could ruin their careers
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines
Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?

What are Jaden and Willow on about?

Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?
Fridge gate: How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces

Cold war

How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces
Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

From dogs in cars to online etiquette, while away a few minutes in peace with one of these humorous, original and occasionally educational tomes
Malky Mackay appointed Wigan manager: Three texts keep Scot’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

Three texts keep Mackay’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

New Wigan manager said all the right things - but until the FA’s verdict is delivered he is still on probation, says Ian Herbert
Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

‘O, Louis’ is the plaintive title of a biography about the Dutchman. Ian Herbert looks at what it tells us about the Manchester United manager
Isis in Iraq: Baghdad hails the retaking of the Baiji oil refinery as the start of the long fightback against the Islamist militants

Isis takes a big step back

Baghdad hails the retaking of the Baiji oil refinery as the start of the long fightback against the Islamist militants
Bill Cosby: America’s beloved TV ‘dad’ or serial rapist?

Bill Cosby: America’s beloved TV ‘dad’ or serial rapist?

Ukip silk bow ties, Green Party T-shirts, and 'Iron Baby' romper suits: How to shop politically

How to shop politically

Ukip silk bow ties, Green Party T-shirts, and 'Iron Baby' romper suits
The science of sex: What happens when science meets erotica

Sex on the brain

Fetishes, dominatrixes, kinks and erotica. They are subjects that should get the crowds flocking to a new exhibition at the Wellcome Collection