Nadal begins historic French Open title bid in style


Rafael Nadal launched his bid for an historic 10th French Open title with a commanding 6-1 6-4 6-1 victory over Benoit Paire.

The Spaniard, whose last Roland Garros success came in 2014, needed less than two hours to extinguish the threat of the home hope, despite a brief second-set wobble.

Nadal had described Paire as a "dangerous opponent", but the fourth seed brought out all his weaponry to ensure safe passage to a second-round meeting with Robin Haase.

World number 45 Paire did not play badly, but Nadal - who won three clay-court tournaments in a row before bowing out to Dominic Thiem in Rome - was in inspired form once again.

Nadal had to contend with Paire's bold variety of shot-making, which was on show from the off - drop-shots mixing seamlessly with searching forehands. 

After a comfortable hold apiece to start the contest, it quickly became clear who was in charge, with Nadal getting that formidable left-hand swing firing on all cylinders.

Paire did not help his own cause with a double fault en route to facing two break points in game four and, although the Frenchman saved the first, Nadal forged ahead with a pinpoint backhand.

The tone was set and Nadal ceaselessly exploited every opening, making only two unforced errors in the opener, which he wrapped up inside 24 minutes.

He looked primed to dish out more rough treatment in the second set with an opening-game break, but Paire stuck to his guns and hit back immediately.

Remarkably, after a solid hold, Paire broke again as Nadal began to allow a few wayward strokes to undermine his otherwise brisk pursuit of victory.

Sensing the need to regroup, and aided by a wild Paire backhand as the underdog dropped serve, Nadal looked to reassert his authority.

That came under question in game eight, where the Spaniard was made to work hard to avoid another drop of serve, narrowly catching the line with a high backhand volley on one break point.

Paire's failure to grasp that opportunity spelled the end of his challenge, Nadal taking the next two games for the loss of a solitary point, as even a controversial line call went his way.

There was a brief medical timeout for Paire at the start of a third set that saw Nadal return to business as usual, with his rival appearing to be troubled by a stomach problem.

Nadal [4] bt Paire 6-1 6-4 6-1

Nadal - 22/18
Paire - 19/32

Nadal - 1
Pairee - 0

Nadal - 8/18
Paire - 2/4

Nadal - 64
Paire - 49

Nadal - 67/71
Paire - 50/38

Nadal - 91
Paire - 57