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:
Nadal has never won a tour-level match 6-0, 6-0 but he did have a double bagel against Ginepri at French Open today 6-0, 6-3, 6-0— Christopher Clarey (@christophclarey) May 26, 2014
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:
Isner on Nadal's scheduling on Lenglen tomo. "Really bizarre. How many times does the guy have to win the tournament to play on Chatrier?"— Simon Briggs (@simonrbriggs) May 25, 2014
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:
Nadal needs just 29 minutes to take the opening set 6-0 over Ginepri. #RG14— ESPNTennis (@ESPNTennis) May 26, 2014
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:
Nadal just won his 60th match at RG. If you think he’s not winning his 9th French Open title in two weeks, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.— Eric Dodds (@doddsef) May 26, 2014
PolicyMic.com's Bryan Armen Graham highlighted the positives that Ginepri can take solace in moving forward:
Robby Ginepri earned a wild card into the French Open main draw by winning the Tallahassee Challenger three weeks ago. Prize money: $7,200.— Bryan Armen Graham (@BryanAGraham) May 26, 2014
Today's likely first-round loss to Rafael Nadal will net him €24,000 ($32,726).— Bryan Armen Graham (@BryanAGraham) May 26, 2014
Jill Martin of CNN provided her analysis on Ginepri's appearance:
Even though he's about to lose in straight sets to Rafael Nadal, it's good to see Robby Ginepri back in a major. He's earned it the hard way— Jill Martin (@JillatCNN) May 26, 2014
How far will Rafael Nadal go at the 2014 French Open?
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.