Rafael Nadal's bid to become the first man ever to win a Grand Slam title eight times began in good style as he started his 2013 French Open campaign on Court Philippe Chatrier with a four set win over Daniel Brands of Germany 6-4, 7-6, 6-4, 6-3.
In what was the first meeting between the two players, Nadal started the match in good nick, hitting a number of winners from his forehand while seeming to have control of his service games. However, Brands' big serving and heavy flat hitting proved difficult for Nadal to cope with.
For a period it seemed like the match would be a repeat of the Lukas Rosol classic at Wimbledon last year and the John Isner five setter in the 1st round on this same court in 2011 and Brands confirmed those fears by breaking Nadal in the ninth service game of the first set. He subsequently claimed the set 6-4 and by the start of the second set, the previously half full stadium was bursting to the rafters.
The second set continued in similar fashion, with Brands' heavy hitting off both the backhand and forehand continuing to unsettle Nadal who struggled to read his opponent's game. Nadal tried to vary his approach to the match by floating some shots to Brands' forehand, hoping the change of pace would put off the German, however, most of the balls fell straight into the hitting zone of his 6'5" opponent.
The second set went to a tie-break, with Nadal to begin serving. Again, as in the last set and the games prior, Brands' forehand was the telling difference as the German was able to get the mini-break and claim a 3-0 lead. Nadal fought back though, showing his credentials on the surface, with some of his legendary retrieval skills and pulled himself back into the tie-break, before closing out 7-5 to level the match.
At that point the momentum had swung in Nadal's favor and the previously boisterous crowd had settled. From then on the heavy hitting from Brands was less sustained and Nadal's doggedness wore down his opponent till eventually the Spaniard claimed the match to progress to the second round and preserve his push for title number eight at Roland Garros.