French Open 2013: How Rafael Nadal's First-Round Scare Cements Favorite Status

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French Open 2013: How Rafael Nadal's First-Round Scare Cements Favorite Status
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For a few brief moments on Monday, it looked like seven-time French Open champion Rafael Nadal might actually lose his second career match at Roland Garros. Not surprisingly, the King of Clay got it together just in time to close out Daniel Brands in four sets.

Nadal dropped the opening set and was down 3-0 to the big-hitting German in the second-set tiebreaker. A couple of errors by Brands and a few strong returns by Nadal later, the match was tied at a set all, and all the momentum was with the three-time defending champion.

The Spanish star totally relaxed after escaping the second-set tiebreaker, breaking Brands for the first time of the match in the first game of the third set. Brands battled admirably throughout the rest of the next two sets, but was unable to pull off the monumental upset.

This result for Nadal was reminiscent of his first-round five-set win over John Isner two years ago. He went on to win that French Open, only dropping one more set throughout the rest of the tournament.

An early round test often means good things for a top contender of a Grand Slam event. Both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic battled back from being a set down in early round matches before winning the 2012 Wimbledon and 2013 Australian Open titles, respectively.

On the flip side of that would be Maria Sharapova's experience at the Australian Open this year. She lost just nine games combined in sailing through to the semifinals, where she only won two games in a straight-set loss to Li Na.

Getting through an early test like that gives players the necessary belief that they need when they are facing the big moments at the latter-stages of big events.

When you also consider the fact that this is Nadal's first Grand Slam tournament in almost a year, this result should give him a nice boost going forward.

Even a player who has dominated on a particular court, such as Nadal has in Paris, can take out a lot of positives from this kind of match. Nadal has had some troubles with big hitters in the past, but he found a way to get through Brands on this day.

The No. 3 seed could potentially face another big hitter in the third round, a man by the name of Lukas Rosol. The two men have a history, as Rosol scored a massive upset over Nadal in the second round of last year's Wimbledon Championships.

By finding a way to solve the game of Brands, Nadal will be able to draw on that if he faces Rosol or any other big hitters throughout the rest of this fortnight.

Nadal has only been pushed to five sets one time at the French Open, and that did not change against Brands. It's almost impossible for his opponents to keep up the type of tennis they need in order to keep Nadal at bay for more than an hour or two.

Nadal's confidence should be very high after surviving this scare. He is back as one of the top players at a Grand Slam event, and luckily for him, it's at his stomping grounds in Paris.

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