Favourite Rafael Nadal (4/6) began his campaign to win a record eighth French Open with victory over world number 59 Daniel Brands, but the man recently described by Boris Becker as the greatest ever player on clay was forced to survive a number of nervy moments before prevailing.
With 2/1 second favourite Novak Djokovic beginning his campaign tomorrow against 16/1 outsider David Goffin, the Serb is sure to take some encouragement from the way that Brands won the first set against Nadal – only the 15th set he’s ever dropped at Roland Garros.
Nadal has lost just once in his eight years in France, but faced the possibility of going 2-0 down against the plucky German before eventually recovering from 3-0 down in the second set tie-break to go on to win 4-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 6-3.
As Nadal struggled to contain his opponent’s powerful serve and well executed groundstrokes, the name of Lukas Rosol could be heard among the nervous murmurings of the French crowd as memories of the world number 100’s shock defeat of Nadal at Wimbledon last year came to mind. The 26 year old will now faced Martin Klizan or Michael Russell in the next round.
Nadal’s record in Paris now reads 53-1 and it will take a formidable opponent to end that run any time soon. It means all eyes will be on Djokovic when he faces Goffin tomorrow, with the Serb likely to be the only man capable of ending Nadal’s incredible run.
Nadal demolished David Ferrer in straight sets in the Mexican Open back in March, while even Roger Federer was brushed aside in just over an hour in the Italian Open earlier this month.
World number one Djokovic, meanwhile, ended Nadal’s eight-year winning run in Monte Carlo back in April, winning 6-2 7-6 (7-1). On top form, the man known as Nole is capable of matching Nadal’s power and fitness on clay, and can be backed at 2/1.
Elsewhere, Laura Robson’s tournament ended prematurely at the hands of tenth seed Caroline Wozniacki (100/1), while home favourite and sixth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (40/1) progressed in straight sets against Slovenia’s Aljaz Bedene.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.