Nadal brushes Daniel aside to get back in the grass-court groove

When Rafael Nadal last won a competitive match on grass there was rain in the air and it was so dark that the scoreboard lights were glowing brightly through the gloom of a dull July evening. Nearly two years after his remarkable triumph over Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final, Nadal was back on grass here yesterday playing his opening match in the Aegon Championships.

The weather was similarly iffy as the Spaniard began his quest to regain the title he won at Queen's Club en route to his Wimbledon triumph, but that was just about where the similarities with the 2008 final at the All England Club ended. Instead of facing the greatest player of all time, Nadal met an opponent who in 15 years as a professional has never reached a final on the main tour. Marcos Daniel, a 31-year-old Brazilian ranked No 112 in the world, was duly beaten 6-2, 6-2 in just 50 minutes.

It was just the sort of gentle reintroduction to grass that Nadal needed after two years without a competitive match on the surface – he missed the whole of last summer's grass-court season because of knee trouble – and two days of practice here in which he described his tennis as "terrible".

The world No 1 arrived in London on Monday, 24 hours after his triumph in the French Open, and spent 15 minutes practising in the pouring rain that evening. The following day's practice session was not much better. "I practised very badly," he said. "During the morning I did better, but it was still bad."

The very first point emphasised the difference between clay and grass. Nadal's sliced cross-court backhand would have sat up nicely for his opponent on the red dirt of Paris but on the green grass of London it skidded low past Daniel's racket for a winner.

Nadal sped into a 3-0 lead and broke serve for a second time when Daniel served at 2-5. On set point Nadal hit a forehand approach down the line, attacked the net and hit a half-volley cross-court winner. Grass-court tactics were quickly becoming more familiar.

The second set, which was interrupted briefly by rain, followed a similar pattern, Nadal breaking Daniel again at 2-5 with two smart cross-court winners to earn a third-round encounter with Denis Istomin, of Uzbekistan. Following his perfect clay-court season it was Nadal's 23rd victory in succession.

The Spaniard said he was feeling no pain in his knees and felt more confident than he had at the start of previous grass-court seasons given the past success he has had on the surface. "It makes me feel a bit better mentally when I come back here, but at the same time I need the time because I have to adapt," he said.

"The way that you have to compete [on grass] is completely different, and the way that you have to play the points is different. The movements are completely different, and you have to be very focused all the time. Sure, on clay you have to be very focused all the time, too, but you have time. You can lose a game on clay and come back. Here, if you lose your serve, it's going to be very difficult to come back. That's a big difference."

Novak Djokovic, the No 2 seed behind Nadal, got off to a similarly good start, beating Italy's Paolo Lorenzi 6-3, 6-3. Andy Murray, the No 3 seed, plays Mardy Fish this afternoon and will be hoping for a better outcome than his doubles against the American yesterday. Murray and his brother, Jamie, were beaten 6-3, 6-3 by Fish and Mark Knowles.

Rain disrupted play again at the Aegon Classic at Edgbaston, where current and former British No 1s enjoyed contrasting fortunes. Elena Baltacha retired after losing the first set 6-1 to Kaia Kanepi because she felt unwell, but Anne Keothavong beat France's Pauline Parmentier 4-6, 7-5, 7-5. Both Britons have been given wild cards into next week's Aegon International at Eastbourne.

BUY WIMBLEDON TICKETS

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent