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It Was Rafael Nadal Who Survived The Scare to Sink Francisco Cerndolo.

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Rafael Nadal

(CTN News) – On Tuesday morning, Rafael Nadal two lines on a Covid test proved devastating for Matteo Berrettini, but for at least half a dozen players in the bottom half of the men’s singles draw, including Rafael Nadal, the chances of making the final next week have improved significantly.

The 2008 and 2010 champion has not reached the final since 2011, and moments during Tuesday’s four-set win over Cerndolo on Center Court seemed more plausible than making the second week for just the second time in his career.

In addition to Nadal’s ongoing foot problem, he hadn’t been able to practice on grass after winning the French Open at Roland Garros last month due to the ongoing issue with his foot. Nadal was playing his first match here since losing in the semi-finals of the 2018 tournament.

On his Wimbledon debut, Cernadalo, ranked 41 in the world, came on court with only one win on grass to his name, but was determined to make his opponent move and think as much as possible. It was a mix of drop shots and return winners that landed right at the Spaniard’s feet, finding the baseline with impressive regularity and hitting several winners with his forehand.

Rafael Nadal needed a nudge to move up a notch, and he got it in the ninth game. Two break points were handed to him after a weak second serve at 15-30, but he hit first-serve winners to save both. The same approach led to him saving two more points later and clinching the victory with a fourth booming serve which left his opponent with no chance of responding.

It was only then when the No 2 seed broke Cerndolo’s serve for the second time at the second attempt that he took the set 6-4, and went on to take the second set as well.

With Rafael Nadal going on to win the match 6-3, Cerendolo provided a great response, taking the third set 6-3 and building up a head of steam of his own to take the fourth set.

It took Rafael Nadal a while to get used to the service game struggle, including an extended third game which went to five deuces, ultimately going in the Argentinian’s favor.

As Rafael Nadal went 0-40 down on serve shortly afterwards, a decisive moment arrived, but it was precisely what he needed to snap back into life. After the former champion secured the hold, Cernolo witnessed a series of unreturnable first serves, and then several forehands of equal quality as his own serve slipped away.

With the match tied at 4-4, Cerandolo’s body language revealed an unsettling match that was disintegrating, and Nadal eased into the second round with a final, limp service game.

Rafael Nadal said afterwards: “He played at a very high level for so long.”. His backhand on his side today was great in contrast to his usually great forehand.

“I played well at the end of the match, which is a positive thing. It is without a doubt that my level has risen in the last couple of games. There is obviously room for improvement, but I am confident that this match will help.”

In the second round, Nadal saw his half of the draw open up a little more as Felix Auger-Aliassime, the No 6 seed and a quarterfinalist in 2021, lost to Maxime Cressy in four sets.

There were varying degrees of difficulty for the remaining seeds in Nadal’s half. During round one, Diego Schwartzman (12), Taylor Fritz (11) and Roberto Bautista Agut (17), a semi-finalist in 2019, breezed through in straight sets, while Stefanos Tsitsipas (4) and Denis Shapovalov (17) needed four and five sets, respectively, to advance.

“IT’S GREAT TO BE BACK,” RAFAEL NADAL says after seeing off PLUCKY FRANCISCO CERUNDOLO

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