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Thursday 22 August 2019

Nadal's quest gets off to right start

Vitalia Diatchenko
Vitalia Diatchenko

Claycourt master Rafael Nadal quickly adapted to the new surroundings at Roland Garros with a 6-2 6-1 6-3 demolition of German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann in the first round of the French Open yesterday.

On a revamped Court Philippe Chatrier, the 11-times champion wasted little time in despatching Hanfmann after the German had the audacity to say in the run up to the match that he could do 'some damage'.

Nadal will next meet another qualifier, German Yannick Maden. The win improved Nadal's Roland Garros record to a remarkable 87-2. The Spaniard is hoping to become the first player to win the same Grand Slam title 12 times.

"What I did during all my career probably is go on court with the goal to improve something, and that makes me feel alive always and makes me feel passionate about the process of improving anything," the second seed explained.

After suffering consecutive semi-final exits in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid this season, questions were asked about Nadal's form heading into his favourite Grand Slam.

He answered many of those doubts by beating rival Novak Djokovic to win the Italian Open title in Rome.

Serena Williams recovered from a stuttering start to defeat Vitalia Diatchenko and book her place in the second round of the French Open.

An upset looked on the cards when Russian Diatchenko, ranked 83rd, took the first set but Williams lost just one game thereafter in a 2-6 6-1 6-0 victory.

Williams arrived in Paris having played just four tournaments this year, withdrawing from all of them except the Australian Open, where she lost from 5-1 up in the deciding set of her quarter-final against Karolina Pliskova.

Latterly Williams has been troubled by a left knee problem, and a picture of her sitting in a wheelchair last week when she took her daughter to Disneyland added to concerns about her fitness.

Speaking on court, Williams said: "I was worried about playing this match and I am relieved to have come through it."

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