football on twitter
Please wait while we load football on twitter...
Rafael Nadal overcame a slow start to open his Wimbledon campaign with a 7-6 6-2 6-3 victory over Thomas Bellucci of Brazil on Tuesday.
The second seed quickly found himself 4-0 down against the free-hitting Bellucci before getting back on serve and taking the opening set tie-break 7-0.
He found the going easier in the second having stifled Bellucci's flamboyance and took it 6-2 before seeing out the match 6-3, recovering from losing his serve in the process.
Three successive forehand winners gave the world number 80 a double break early on and an opening-set whitewash looked possible until Nadal turned things things around, breaking twice in succession himself as an increase in his aggression on the forehand wing twice forced Bellucci to net.
Serve then held through to a tie-break which Nadal gratefully took with ease, earning a first-point mini-break which was backed up by two more.
The Brazilian didn't appear rattled but conceded his serve in the sixth game of the second set, with Nadal setting up break point with a wonderful backhand lob and his opponent validating it when he planted a one-hander long.
A routine hold to love then indicated Nadal had worn Bellucci down and so it proved in the eighth game, with Nadal earning and taking two set points.
Two winning forehands got him in the position and a vicious backhand return took him to 6-2.
It looked as though it would be a procession for Nadal en route to victory after that, especially when he broke in the second game of the third set - Bellucci hitting a backhand wide.
But the break back was immediate, with Bellucci displaying admirable character to pull back, applying enough pressure on Nadal to force him to hit off court.
His revival would only be a temporary one, though, with Nadal benefiting from a clip on the net to earn a sixth-game break point which he converted with a booming forehand, before seeing the game out.
The seedings suggest a possible quarter-final meeting with fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and the Frenchman made a solid start by ousting former champion Lleyton Hewitt 6-3 6-4 6-4.
Hewitt, the 2002 winner, has struggled increasingly with injuries over the past few years but returned to the circuit at the French Open after more than three months off following a radical toe operation.
However, the Australian, now ranked 202nd in the world and the recipient of a wild card here, is short of matches having not won since a third-round victory over rising star Milos Raonic at the Australian Open in January.
Tsonga, who beat Roger Federer to reach the semi-finals here last year, was a hugely tough first-round opponent for Hewitt and in the end the 31-year-old was overpowered.
Hewitt had his chances, particularly in the second set, when he brought up three break points in the sixth game only for Tsonga to send down three massive serves.
A poor game from Hewitt at 4-4 then gave Tsonga the crucial advantage, although the Frenchman still needed to recover from 0-40 in the next game to take the set.
The decider was more straightforward, with Tsonga, a potential quarter-final opponent for Rafael Nadal, breaking serve for the only time in the seventh game and then clinching victory when Hewitt netted a backhand.