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French Open 2013: Nadal Fights Back On His Return

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The second Grand Slam of the year, Roland Garros, kicked off on Sunday with the world’s top players all fantasizing about lifting the coveted Coupe de Mousquetaires and Coupe de Suzanne Lenglen trophies respectively. Roland Garros has served up its share of shockers year after year and this year promises to be no different. From the first round alone, it is safe to say that it will be an interesting two weeks.

Day One

The first day of action saw top players such as Serena Williams and her sister Venus, Roger Federer, Sara Errani and Ana Ivanovic take to the stage.

Last year in the first round, Serena Williams fell victim at the hands of Virginie Razzano but she made sure she wasn’t going to suffer the same fate this year. The world No. 1 dismantled her opponent, Anna Tatishvili, with a cool 6-0, 6-1 victory; a display of pure power and speed.

Roger Federer – who hasn’t been defeated in an opening round match of a Grand Slam in ten years –  also cruised through with a routine victory against Pablo Carreno Busta in 6-2, 6-2, 6-3, showing that he’s still very much a contender for the title.

Though sister Serena had no trouble, Venus Williams wasn’t so fortunate as she lost her first round match to the dogged Urszula Radwanska 7-6 (7-5), 6-7 (4-7), 4-6.

Last year’s runner-up, Sara Errani, sailed through her first match against Arantxa Rus, defeating her 6-1, 6-2 in a match where she dominated from the baseline. Ana Ivanovic, seeded 14th in this tournament, had a tougher battle out on court but came through in three sets beating Petra Martic 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

Former Number 1, Lleyton Hewitt had a first round match-up against the 15th seed and crowd favourite, Gilles Simon, and both men served up a marathon of a match that went the distance. It was Simon who came through triumphant but only after a last set hiccup where he lost five games in a row only to finish it off at 7-5. Simon won with a score 6-3, 6-1, 4-6, 1-6, 7-5.

Upset of the day: Nadia Petrova, the 11th seed, was defeated by Puerto Rico’s Monica Puig in three sets.

Day Two

The second day saw the reigning champions on both the men and women’s side take to the court to begin the defence of their titles.

Rafael Nadal had been absent from the tennis scene for seven months following a knee injury and began his bid for his eighth French Open title facing relative unknown Daniel Brands. Rather unexpectedly, his opponent came out surging right from the outset and took the first set with a combination of flat groundstrokes and a blazing serve, and looked to be on course for a second set when he led the tie-break. However, Nadal raised the bar and claimed the second, clawing his way back to defeat the German in four sets 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4, 6-3.

In contrast, Maria Sharapova began her tournament in rather spectacular fashion, taking only 54 minutes to see off Hsieh Su-Wei with a 6-1, 6-2 win. The Russian only dropped eight points on serve throughout the match, solidifying her determination to retain the title.

Caroline Wozniacki looked to have a tough first match against the rising star Laura Robson, but took the match in straight sets 6-3, 6-2 against the Brit who made 39 unforced errors throughout the course of the match. Wozniacki’s ability to counter-punch no doubt aided her in that win. Furthermore, 4th seed Agnieszka Radwanska returned back to form as she clocked in a thundering victory over Shahar Peer 6-1, 6-1. Elsewhere, world no. 8 Angelique Kerber had to fight for her victory over fellow German Mona Barthel, winning 7-5, 6-2.

In addition, former champions Svetlana Kuznetsova, Francesca Schiavone and Li Na all had straightforward victories over their respective opponents.

But it was Gael Monfils of France that delivered the shock of the day as he defeated the 5th seed Tomas Berdych in a thrilling four-hour marathon. In a match dominated by baseline power, he took it in five sets 7-6 (10-8), 6-4, 6-7 (3-7), 6-7 (4-7), 7-5, much to the delight of the enthusiastic French crowd.

Day Three

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic began his campaign by facing young David Goffin. The Belgian put Djokovic to the test, posing all sorts of questions and threatening the Serb’s game with his doggedness and perhaps he was unlucky not to get a set off the man. Djokovic dispatched of him with a 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, 7-5 victory late into the evening.

French player Marion Bartoli also had to fight tooth and nail for her victory over Belarusian Olga Govortsova. The match was delayed due to rain breaks and the momentum switched at every which way but the 13th seed came through, winning 7-6 (8-6), 4-6, 7-5.

Sam Stosur was forced to wait for her first match because of a rain delay but she had no problem in shrugging off her opponent, losing only two games against 42-year-old Kimiko Date-Krumm – 6-0, 6-2.

Elsewhere, Jelena Jankovic came through beating Daniela Hantuchova 6-4, 7-6 (7-5), German Tommy Haas defeated Guillaume Rufin 7-6 (7-4), 6-1, 6-3 in an exciting match on Court Suzanne Lenglen, and Dominika Cibulkova, the 16th seed, didn’t take long to put away Lesia Tsurenko 6-1, 6-4.

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