Nadal is held in the embers

Rafael Nadal celebrates his victory. / Toby Melville (Reuters)

First round

The Spaniard made over 40 unforced errors in his Wimbledon debut but survived against Cerúndolo

Rafael Nadal warned that his Wimbledon debut would not be easy. He replied and replied that they have not played on the surface for three years, that since 2019 he has not tried these courts and that the preparation, without official matches, was not easy. It was not a warning in vain. His first match at Wimbledon was hell. A fire in which there were 41 unforced errors, an outrage for what the Balearic is used to, and in which he escaped against Francisco Cerúndolo based on his head and mental strength (6-4, 6-3, 3-6 and 6 -4).

Nadal won, but Nadal also suffered. Very much. His debuts in this tournament have never been easy, especially in the period between 2012 and 2017, when his most resounding defeats came here, like Lukas Rosol in 2012 or Steve Darcis in 2013. And that was the aroma that took on the match when Nadal, after going two sets up and ‘break’ in favor in the third, began to dilute. He had a fall at the beginning of that third set, in the third point, which was a good scare, but it passed without consequences and seemed to remain an anecdote.

However, the slip was amplified and changed in appearance. It was his tennis that began a gradual decline that engulfed him and turned a placid, warm afternoon in London into a perfect nightmare for Cerúndolo. The Argentine, at the mercy of his nerves, for facing one of the greats for the first time, and before a giant Nadal, was tiny, unable to find his tennis during the almost two hours that lasted during the first two sets.

But Nadal had doubts, a ‘break’ in the third unleashed a torrent of play by the Argentine, who saw himself with possibilities against a blurred Nadal who was gripped by errors. The lack of memory on the grass, as he warned these days, came to the surface and matched a game that on most other courts in the world would have ended on the fast track.

Badosa reigns over the reborn Chirico

mental strength

Cerúndolo got into Nadal’s head and, with his winning shots (he accumulated 30), managed to force a fourth. Trip or setback? He aimed for the second, because the Argentine was not satisfied with the partial, he went for the fifth. He was placed 3-1 and with break balls for 4-1 and serve. He enjoyed four, Nadal saved them all and the reconquest began. The 4-2 that the scoreboard wore was a mirage. Everyone knew that Cerúndolo had the set in hand in those four 4-1 balls and that, without them already, it was a matter of time before he turned around. 4-2, 4-3, 4-4 and 4-5.

Nadal, in a quarter of fifteen minutes, turned the fear, ignored the uncertainty with his mental strength and was one game away from victory. He shook Cerúndolo’s hand, who could not escape from the trap created by not having the head of one of the greatest, surely the most in this regard. His serve was weak, waiting for the guillotine, which reached the first match point. Nadal’s victory, fire extinguished.

His team is broken, with Marin Cilic and Matteo Berrettini out due to covid and with Sam Querrey eliminated in the first round. His second round, this Thursday, will be against the Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis, whom he already defeated this year at the ATP 250 in Melbourne.



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