Rafael Nadal commenced his quest for a ninth singles title at Roland Garros by defeating wild card Robby Ginepri 6-0, 6-3, 6-0 in a first-round match at the 2014 French Open on Monday.
Play was suspended prior to the match due to rain, which made the already mountainous task for Ginepri just to stay competitive all the more challenging. It is difficult enough to generate pace on clay, but the dampened conditions played even more into Nadal's capable hands.
Christopher Clarey of The New York Times provided further context for the lopsided affair:
The immense amount of topspin Nadal creates with his forehand causes the ball to kick up in a most peculiar way on clay. That gave Ginepri problems and pushed him far back from the baseline often. Nadal's sheer strength to hit winners even when his footwork was out of sorts also beset Ginepri throughout.
Nadal had 27 winners to 15 unforced errors, while Ginepri had numbers of 18 and 41 in those same respective categories, per RolandGarros.com. Just one break opportunity presented itself for Ginepri, and he didn't convert, as Nadal broke him eight times in 19 attempts.
Some controversy surfaced before the match, since Nadal, even as the preeminent French Open player, didn't get on Roland Garros' main court. USA star John Isner commented on that, per Simon Briggs of The Telegraph:
Although Ginepri is the only active American men's player to have played in a Grand Slam semifinal, that was all the way back in 2005 at the U.S. Open. While there were occasional flashes of his past high-caliber form, Ginepri bowed out in rather short order to the King of Clay.
The first set was a crisp shutout for Nadal, who dropped just one point on his serve and wasted little time to complete his romp, per ESPN Tennis:
Things got a little tighter in the second set, mainly due to better service games by Ginepri. His go-for-broke tactics to hit as many winners as possible panned out better, as he seemed to settle into more of a rhythm. Knotted at three games apiece, Nadal began to impose his will, breaking Ginepri in each of his last two games on serve en route to closing out the second with three unanswered games won.
The opening game of the third set saw Nadal in a 0-30 hole, but the Spaniard, as he has so often in the past, took it one point at a time and managed to hold. It's that type of stamina and relentless competitiveness that has frustrated many Nadal adversaries in the past, and this Monday match was no different.
A break in the second game put the match well in hand for the eight-time French Open champion, and he didn't take much longer to dispose of his opponent without surrendering a game the rest of the way.
Eric Dodds of Time.com feels Nadal is well on his way to hoisting the trophy by tournament's end for what would be 14th Grand Slam triumph overall:
PolicyMic.com's Bryan Armen Graham highlighted the positives that Ginepri can take solace in moving forward:
Jill Martin of CNN provided her analysis on Ginepri's appearance:
Just getting to this tournament was an accomplishment for Ginepri, who will look to carry on at least some momentum toward the end of his career. Getting pummeled by Nadal is nothing to be ashamed of, as many others have suffered the same fate before him, especially at this venue.
Next up for Nadal in Round 2 is the winner of Monday's match between France native Paul-Henri Mathieu and Dominic Thiem. Neither should be too difficult of a hurdle for Nadal to clear, although Mathieu may garner some favoritism from the Paris crowd if he advances through.
Even though he lost the final in Rome to Novak Djokovic, Monday's impressive showcase fortified the notion that Nadal deserved the top seed and should still be regarded as the prohibitive favorite to win an unprecedented fifth straight French Open. Despite his lackluster clay-court season, it appears Nadal is locked in to start his run at Roland Garros, where he now has a 60-1 career record.
If his forehand continues to be this sharp and the errors are kept at a minimum, Nadal will be a tough man to beat as always.