Wimbledon 2014: Rafael Nadal shows competitive spirit to set up shot at Lukas Rosol revenge

The Spaniard's 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 victory over Martin Klizan sets up a second round clash with the man who beat him at the same stage in 2012

Rafael Nadal has 14 Grand Slam titles under his belt and more than $70.5m (£41.5m) in prize money in his bank account, but the passion that continues to drive him to the greatest heights burns as fiercely as ever. A single rally in his first-round victory here over Slovakia’s Martin Klizan showed why the 28-year-old Spaniard might just be the most ferocious competitor in tennis history.

Klizan was serving in the first game of the third set, Nadal having just levelled the match, when the world No 1 slipped and fell on the Centre Court’s lush turf as he turned after hitting a backhand. Nadal somehow scrambled to his feet, chased down a ball struck to the opposite corner and then kept running back and forth along the baseline as Klizan pulled him from side to side. On his fourth shot after his fall, Nadal, at full stretch, thundered an unstoppable backhand cross-court pass beyond the reach of the world No 51, who had come forward in readiness for the kill.

It was a stunning point and a wonderful demonstration of Nadal’s unrivalled ability to turn defence into attack. For good measure, he played a point that was almost as remarkable early in the fourth set. Despite falling over before he had hit his shot, the Spaniard forced the ball over the net, picked himself up and hit a winning lob which landed just inside the baseline.

Nadal’s 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 victory – the margin was exactly the same as his win against 23-year-old Klizan in their only previous meeting at last year’s French Open – was only his second on these courts in the last three years. Twelve months ago he was beaten in the first round by Steve Darcis and in 2012 he fell in the second round to Lukas Rosol.

 

Both results were among the most surprising in Wimbledon history and Nadal will have the chance to avenge the first of them when he plays his next match. Rosol, who beat Benoît Paire 6-3, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4, will face Nadal for only the second time since the most celebrated victory of his career, the Spaniard having won in straight sets when they met in Doha at the start of this year.

“He’s a player that can play very well on this surface,” Nadal said. “He’s an aggressive player. It will be a tough match again. I know if I want to have chances to win, I need to play very well. That’s what I’m going to try to. If not, I won’t have chances to be in the third round. But I’m going to fight for it.”

After winning his ninth French Open title just 17 days ago, Nadal played only one competitive match on grass in the build-up to Wimbledon, losing in straight sets to Dustin Brown in Halle. His rustiness as he set out on his quest to become only the second player (after Bjorn Borg) to do the Roland  Garros-Wimbledon double three times was evident in  the first set as a double fault in the ninth game gave Klizan the chance to draw first blood.

Klizan had break points in the second game of the second set. However, Nadal, amid much fist-pumping, held on, broke to lead 4-2 and saved more break points as he served out for the set. The wonder point at the start of the third set seemed to fire up the Spaniard, who broke serve twice in a row to go 3-0 up. Another break gave him the set.

The only hiccup in the fourth set came when Fergus Murphy, the umpire, gave Nadal a time violation for taking too long between points when he served at 4-2 and deuce. Nadal seemed to be rattled for a moment and lost two points in a row to drop his serve, but broke back immediately and went on to serve out for the match.

“I haven’t played much on grass for the last three years, so I’m very happy for the win,” Nadal said. “In the end the match was difficult. After the first set it was even more difficult, but I was able to fight. I was able to try to find some solutions, some changes during the match.

“I think I can do it better than what I did today, but at the same time I knew I would not play perfectly today after not playing on grass for a while. You need to find the routines again. You need to find the confidence on some shots. The only way to find things that become automatic is to play matches.”

The win was Nadal’s 700th at tour level. Only 10 other men in the Open era have reached that milestone. “It’s great,” he said. “That means that I’ve had a very long and successful career so I’m happy with that.”

If both players play up to their seeding, Nadal will meet Roger Federer in the semi-finals. The seven-times Wimbledon champion opened his campaign in emphatic fashion, beating Italy’s Paolo Lorenzi 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 in just 93 minutes. Lorenzi was appearing in his 13th Grand Slam tournament and has yet to win a match.

“I think I got the break in the first return game in all three sets,” Federer said afterwards. “I was always in the lead. It’s easier to play that way. Then many times I was able to break again. It was a solid match overall. I served well, returned well and I tried to come forward a bit. I could really do everything out there, so I’m very pleased with the first round.”

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