Slow start forgotten as Nadal powers through

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It was not always pretty, but it was job done for Rafael Nadal as he started his bid for a third Wimbledon title with a first-round win over Thomaz Bellucci.

Seeded second, Nadal is fresh from winning a record seventh French Open title and Novak Djokovic apart, is the favourite to add to the titles he won here in 2008 and 2010.

Winning against an opponent ranked 78 places below him in the world was always expected, with his 7-6 (7/0) 6-2 6-3 success the first step of what the Spaniard hopes will be the route to a 12th grand slam title.

But his free-hitting opponent did not let him have it all his own way, catching him cold in the first set as he raced 4-0 ahead, before eventually buckling under the weight of Nadal’s class and experience.

Afterwards, Nadal admitted to having early problems but was happy to have navigated his way through to a second-round meeting with Michael Russell.

“I don’t think I played my best match,” he said. “Especially in the first set, I was too nervous and didn’t know what to do.

“But I was able to keep winning the first set. That’s the important thing and the good news. Then I started to play better.

“I felt in that moment I started to hit my forehand better. That’s the most important thing for me. In the beginning I didn’t start the best, but I finished well.”

It was the forehand of Bellucci that had stolen the show for the first half of the match, though, with the flamboyant Brazilian taking aim from seemingly anywhere he fancied and leaving Nadal scratching around behind the baseline.

But, while Nadal is the world No 2 and has been a dominant force on the Tour for the last eight years, he is also no stranger to a scrap. His games are rarely short and he is renowned for digging in when the going gets tough.

He has not lost in the first round of a grand slam for five years either, but said: “I don’t think of those kind of things (struggles) when I am on court.

“I try to find a solution to the problem that I have in the moment, to try to find a way to start playing better.

“It’s great for me that I didn’t lose in the first round. But that’s going to happen. I don’t know if it will be here, or in the next one. I just try to keep focused and think in the moment.”