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For the second time in as many matches, Andy Murray fought off another upset bid at Roland Garros on Wednesday and escaped to keep his Grand Slam title hopes alive in Paris. The second seed prevailed in another five-set battle, this time outlasting French wild card Mathias Bourgue 6-2, 2-6, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 in three hours and 34 minutes on Philippe-Chatrier Court.
“He was excellent,” said Murray in his on-court interview with Fabrice Santoro. “He was the one dictating a lot of the points, making me run a lot right to the end, even when I had a big lead in the fifth set. He's going to have a fantastic future for sure.
“[At the end of the third set] I was thinking, 'What happened?' I had a 6-2, 2-0 lead, and then he started playing unbelievable and I was finding it hard to win points, not so much just games. It was a very big turnaround and I've played these matches many times. Sometimes your opponent can lose a little bit of concentration, maybe play a bad game here or there. I just tried to fight through to the end.”
The Scot looked to be in a deep rut against Bourgue, who was playing in his second Grand Slam match in front of a boisterous French crowd. The World No. 2 fell behind two sets to one, and the 22 year old was swelling with confidence, mixing in drop shots that lured Murray to the net and powerful forehands that moved the second seed from side to side along the baseline.
“He played very good... When he was dictating the points with his forehand he was very good, moving the ball around well,” Murray said. “And he had good touch, a lot of good drop shots.”
But Bourgue, No. 164 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, had never played a fourth set or fifth set on tour. Murray, on the other hand, had come back from two sets down as recently as Tuesday against Radek Stepanek, marking the ninth time in his career that he's completed the feat. And the 29 year old used all of that late-match expertise to grab momentum from the Frenchman.
Murray stepped into the court more often and earned two service breaks in the fourth as Bourgue's game also cooled off. In the fifth, Bourgue erased a break point in his first service game but Murray capitalised on his second opportunity to go up 3-1. The World No. 2 failed to serve out the match during his first attempt but broke Bourgue to convert his first match point and move into the third round.
“I lost my way on the court today for quite a while. So to turn it around and find a way to win after a period where I was struggling to win points at one stage, I was losing a lot of games at love. It felt like every time the ball was in the middle of the court he was hitting winners. I couldn't see where his shots were going,” Murray said. “I was trying to find a way. It wasn't like I was not there mentally, but I just couldn't find the court. I was missing balls.”
Murray will face 27th seed Ivo Karlovic, who also needed five sets to advance. The big-serving Croat beat Australian Jordan Thompson 6-7(2), 6-3, 7-6(3), 6-7(4), 12-10. Karlovic, 37, is the oldest man to reach the third round at a Grand Slam since 39-year-old Jimmy Connors at the 1991 US Open. “It's the only time when being old is okay,” Karlovic said, smiling. "So, yeah, I like."
It looked as if Murray would stride into the third round earlier on Wednesday. He broke Bourgue at 2-1 and again at 5-2 to win the first set in 40 minutes.
Murray's level of play dipped, though, early in the second. He was up 2-0 but then let Bourgue reel off the next six games, including three service breaks, to take the second set. Bourgue won 16 points in a row from 30-all, 3-2 in the second set to 30-0 in the first game of the third set.
Murray's rough stretch continued in the third. He lost his opening service game, and Bourgue seized the momentum, capturing the third with a backhand winner and coming within a set of the biggest win of his career.
“I couldn't believe it myself. I was very happy. I was very proud. I knew I was on top of things at that point,” Bourgue said of his two-sets-to-one advantage. “Then he increased his game. I started to serve less well, and then he just had that positive momentum that went on and on. It's a pity. It's a pity I lost the match.”
The Frenchman can't be disappointed with his effort. Before Wednesday, he had played exactly one Grand Slam match, his first-round win at Roland Garros on Monday. The number of Grand Slam matches Murray had played: 198.
“Thanks to all the crowd for encouraging me the whole match,” Bourgue said. “It was really an emotional moment for me, and I will never forget it.”
No. 9 seed Richard Gasquet pleased the French fans with a win over American wild card Bjorn Fratangelo, 6-1, 7-6(3), 6-3. Next up for the Frenchman is a third-round clash with No. 17 seed Nick Kyrgios. Gasquet leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry by 4-2.
"He's the best newcomer coming now, so it will be an incredible match for me. We know each other very well. We have played many times against each other. I know his game; he knows mine," Gasquet said.
French fans also delighted in Gilles Simon's four-hour and 32-minute win over Guido Pella, 4-6, 1-6, 7-5, 7-6(4), 6-4. Pella served for the match at 6-5 in the fourth set but couldn't clinch it. Simon needed seven match points to move into the third round, where he'll face No. 22 seed Viktor Troicki of Serbia. Simon also improved to 19-11 in five-set matches. His only other comeback from two sets down was in 2013 during a first-round match against Lleyton Hewitt at Roland Garros.
DID YOU KNOW?
No. 3 seed Stan Wawrinka had a far more comfortable victory in his second-round match on Wednesday at Roland Garros. After surviving a five-set encounter against Lukas Rosol on Monday, Wawrinka improved his form as he defeated Taro Daniel of Japan in straight sets, 7-6(7), 6-3, 6-4.
The Swiss star nearly found himself in another lengthy battle as Daniel held two set points in the opening set tie-break, but Wawrinka fought back from 4/6 to take the first set. He started the second set strongly by breaking Daniel and put consistent pressure on the Japanese player’s serve, earning break point chances in four out of Daniel’s five service games that set. Wawrinka broke his opponent once again at 5-3 to take a commanding two-set lead.
Daniel is known for his competitiveness and wouldn’t go away quietly, breaking Wawrinka in the first game of the third set. Wawrinka had more firepower from the baseline, though, eventually earning the break back on a lengthy game on Daniel’s serve at 4-3. With Daniel serving at 4-5, Wawrinka sealed the contest on his first match point with a backhand winner. Next up for Wawrinka in the third round is No. 30 seed Jeremy Chardy.
"He plays a different style, more from the baseline, a lot of long rallies, topspin, forehand. It was a good match. I’m happy to get through in three sets,” said Wawrinka. “Chardy is a dangerous player. He’s playing really fast and heavy, big serve and always trying to use his forehand. He loves to play here, so I will have to play better.”
The Frenchman delighted the local crowd on Court 6 with a straight-sets win over qualifier Adam Pavlasek of the Czech Republic, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4. With the crowd chanting his name in the last game of the match, Chardy hit an ace on his first match point. He is looking to reach the second week at Roland Garros for the second consecutive year.
“I started very well, and I was able to stay focused and aggressive throughout. I think I played a solid match. My energy never went down. That's really what I wanted,” said Chardy. “Playing Stan will be a rough one. He’s a great player and plays well on all surfaces. I’m going to go on the court hopefully very confident and prepare for the match the same way I prepare for my other matches.”
Meanwhile, Teymuraz Gabashvili continues to find his best form at Roland Garros. The Russian caused the first upset of the day on Court 2 by defeating No. 19 seed and local favourite Benoit Paire, 6-3, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2. Gabashvili reached the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time at last year’s Roland Garros. He’ll look to repeat that feat when he plays the winner of the match between No. 15 seed John Isner, who swept #NextGen star Kyle Edmund of Great Britain 6-4, 6-4, 6-4.
Lucky loser Andrej Martin of Slovakia continued to take advantage of his good fortune at Roland Garros. Martin dismissed 29th seed Lucas Pouille of France 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 to move into the third round. Before Roland Garros, the 26-year-old Bratislava native had been 0-1 in Grand Slam matches (2013 US Open). He'll face eighth seed Milos Raonic, who beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino 6-1, 7-6(0), 6-1.
In the western tip of Stade Roland Garros, among a cluster of courts enveloped by the shadows of Court Suzanne Lenglen, Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert will today play in front of 754 spectators with dreams of becoming national heroes in 10 days' time. Nine different French teams have lifted the Coupe Jacques Brugnon trophy over the past 90 years, but this time there is added significance. Mahut is just 10 points shy of Marcelo Melo, the No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Doubles Rankings.
Mahut had been quick to deflect the media scrutiny, telling ATPWorldTour.com, "I will talk about it once I am No. 1, if you think too much about it, you'll start losing matches." But the carrot is there, though, in his mind. Yannick Noah was the last French winner at Roland Garros in 1983, but also the nation's only doubles No. 1 on 25 August 1986.
Mahut's prize will be a product of dedication and a lot of work. It's been a long time coming for the 34 year old.
"It has been surprising," says Mahut, who has won three singles and eight doubles titles on the ATP World Tour. "Sometimes when you're young you think too much, and maybe that was my problem. I was too tense, now I'm more relaxed on and off the court. I have a really good team behind me. I work hard to be fit and I don't have any injuries."
With a Grand Slam title and No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Doubles Rankings on the line, Mahut, who partnered Michael Llodra to a third-set tie-break loss to Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan in the 2013 Roland Garros final, is ready to seize his opportunity with Herbert.
As the team to beat in 2016, with a 20-2 match record, they are hoping to add to their 2015 US Open crown in the Bois de Boulogne.
"They are playing the best tennis of any team in the world right now," Eric Butorac told ATPWorldTour.com. "I think it is the combination of them both serving really well and then putting a lot of pressure at the net.
"Mahut is probably one of the best conventional volleyers in the game and Herbert is maybe one of the most athletic at the net. His anticipation combined with his athleticism makes him one of the toughest players to get the ball around at the net. They are holding serve as much as anybody and, a little surprisingly, playing amazing tennis from the baseline. I wouldn't have expected them to play such a high level from the back, but watching their matches over the past month I have been very impressed."
Mahut was the matchmaker, a big brother offering encouragement. Towards the end of 2014, having seen Herbert partner Michal Przysiezny to the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships title, Mahut said, "Let's try".
"Maybe, for the first six months, it might not work, like Mika [Llodra], but afterwards I knew we'd get better. In our first tournament, we reached the  Australian Open final. I think it was a good choice...
"Sometimes you get a feeling. I wanted to play with a French player, of course it would have been easier to partner a Top 20 player so to get seeded in tournaments, but I felt like I had to do something with a young French player. Pierre was still young, just outside the Top 100. I'd known him for many years, and knew his type of game and mentality was good for doubles."
Herbert, who has risen to No. 6 in the Emirates ATP Doubles Rankings, tells ATPWorldTour.com, "Nico had a feeling from the beginning. He said, 'I believe in you.' Our success, particularly in reaching the Australian Open final, in our first tournament, did surprise me.
"I've always made progress slowly. I have always played quite well, but I have lacked consistency and concentration. I was losing matches that I should have won. It's definitely important to switch off, although I do watch a lot of tennis and think a lot about the sport."
By clinching this year's first three ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles - the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells (d. Pospisil/Sock), the Miami Open presented by Itau (d. Klaasen/Ram) and also the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters (d. Murray/Soares) - Herbert and Mahut replicated the Bryans' 2014 feat.
So what's the key to their success?
Mahut says, "We're friends, I always like to play with people I like - just like Julien Benneteau, Mika in the past. Our games are really good for doubles, serving and being at the net. We then got to work off the court, watching our opponents and talking about doubles. Sometimes you have to spend a lot of time off the court, getting to know each other, in order to improve on the court. We are now a much better team.
"We chat a lot. If we don't know our opponents, we watch videos of them. It depends how it goes, if we're playing singles then we might get busier. If we lose early, then we spend more time on doubles."
Over the next 10 days, Herbert and Mahut could face seventh seeds Vasek Pospisil and Jack Sock in the quarter-finals and third seeds Ivan Dodig and Melo in the semi-finals. It will be no easy route to victory. "We try and stay humble, knowing how tough it is with so many good teams," says Herbert.
"We have a good attitude and we know we have a good chance to win and make life difficult for our opponents. We are trying to be efficient on a daily basis, take care of our physical fitness and focus on goals in terms of results and performance."
Jamie Murray, who spent five weeks at No. 1 this year, says, "I think they both serve big serves, especially Herbert. Both of them can return really well, hard returns, which is kind of what a lot of doubles is about these days. They move around well at the net." Soares adds, "They have no weaknesses. It's tough. They're all-around players. They do everything well. They can beat you so many different ways."
On the terre battue in south-west Paris, French eyes will be on top seeds Herbert and Mahut. Noah, a figure that looms large in French tennis, will also be watching with interest.
With the sun shining for the first time this tournament, Nishikori struck 31 winners to 18 unforced errors and broke serve six times from eight break point opportunities.
The Japanese star achieved his best result at Roland Garros with a quarter-final showing last year, losing to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in five sets. The 26 year old came into the clay-court Grand Slam on the back of a strong lead-in, reaching the final in Barcelona (l. to Nadal) and semi-finals in Madrid and Rome, where he fell both times to Novak Djokovic.
Nishikori advances to a meeting with Fernando Verdasco, who defeated Ivan Dodig 6-2, 6-1, 6-3. Former World No. 7 Verdasco holds a 2-1 lead over Nishikori in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series and has a 25-12 record in Paris, reaching the fourth round five times.
American Jack Sock defeated qualifier Dustin Brown 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-2 to book his spot in the third round for the third year in a row; last year he went on to lose to Rafael Nadal in the fourth round. The No. 23 seed hit 40 winners and capitalised on 35 unforced errors from Brown as he claimed his 15th win of the season.
In a first-round match carried over from Tuesday, #NextGen star Alexander Zverev claimed his first win at Roland Garros as he edged home hope Pierre-Hugues Herbert 5-7, 6-2, 7-6(6), 7-5. Play was suspended due to bad light on Tuesday evening, right after Zverev had saved three set points to win the third-set tie-break from a 3/6 deficit. On the resumption, the 19-year-old German broke Herbert in the 12th game to claim his second Grand Slam main draw win.
From one end of the spectrum to the other. At 37 years old, Ivo Karlovic became the oldest man to reach a Grand Slam third round since Jimmy Connors (39) at the 1991 US Open when he edged Australian Jordan Thompson 6-7(2), 6-3, 7-6(3), 6-7(4), 12-10. Karlovic fired 41 aces and made the decisive breakthrough in the 21st game of the deciding set before converting his third match point to seal victory.
The 30-year-old Cypriot notched his first victory since a quarter-final run last month in Houston (l. to Sock), improving to a 300-223 career mark and 11-8 on the season. In February, he had reached his 13th tour-level final at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships (l. to Wawrinka).
Baghdatis, a former World No. 8, will look to defeat fellow Australian Open finalist Tsonga for the first time in their seventh FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting. Tsonga cruised through their lone clay-court clash in Rome in 2011. “I don't want to give him any opportunities. I don't even want him to believe that there's a door that's slightly open,” Tsonga said. “I will be really strong, and we'll see.”
The sixth seed opened with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 victory over German qualifier Jan-Lennard Struff. Tsonga, a two-time semi-finalist at Roland-Garros, won his first-round match in Paris for the eighth time in nine appearances. Earlier this month, Tsonga had to withdraw from the Internazionali BNL d'Italia because of an adductor injury.
“I feel more reassured. That is, now I can play my tennis completely. We had interesting rallies and physically I did what I wanted to do,” Tsonga said.
Another Frenchman, Paul-Henri Mathieu, fought past Colombian Santiago Giraldo 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 to record his first match win at Roland Garros since a third-round showing in 2012. That year, he recorded back-to-back five-set victories, including an 18-16 fifth set defeat of John Isner in the second round.
The 12th-seeded Goffin broke the Frenchman six times to move on in straight sets. The Belgian, who made the third round in Roland Garros last year, is looking to build on his strong season to date. The 25 year old reached back-to-back semi-finals in Indian Wells and Miami. In Rome earlier this month, he became the first player on tour to beat Tomas Berdych 6-0, 6-0.
Novak Djokovic is aiming to complete a career Grand Slam at Roland Garros, but first he’ll have to win seven matches. On Tuesday, he opened his tournament against Yen-Hsun Lu and scored an uncomplicated 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 win.
“Whether or not I'm going to have a chance to fight for a trophy, that's in the Almighty's hands, I can't influence that, but I can certainly give my best and give my all, as always," said Djokovic.
The temperamental conditions in the French capital did not prove problematic for the World No. 1, especially against an opponent who had not played at tour-level since the Australian Open due to elbow surgery. The 2015 runner-up avoided the five-set struggles that defending champion Stan Wawrinka and Andy Murray experienced in their openers.
“We aimed to play on Monday, but it didn't happen. But it wasn't a big deal,” Djokovic said. “Weather conditions are not going in the favour of the tournament in the past couple of days. It's been raining a lot. So the courts are a bit heavier and the conditions are quite different. But it's not the first time. It happens quite often in Paris.
“I just needed the time to kind of get myself engaged, used to the new tournament. The second and third sets were really good. I thought I found my rhythm. The first set was up and down. But I'll take the positives out of it, and I'm hoping that I can progress as the tournament goes on."
“It's not the first time this year that I'm experiencing such anticipation and expectations. As a matter of fact, I think it's been three years in a row that I’ve found myself in a very similar situation, where I'm approaching this tournament as one of the favourites,” Djokovic said. “Obviously people wonder if this is the year or not, and I wonder myself.
“But it depends on me how I'm going to use this emotion. So I try to use it as a motivation to inspire myself, to play well, to stay calm and focus only on the present moment.”
Novak Djokovic's quest for a career Grand Slam began with ease on Tuesday at Roland Garros. The World No. 1 bypassed Yen-Hsun Lu of Chinese Taipei 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 to stretch his undefeated streak to 12-0 in first-round play in Paris. The Serb broke Lu seven times and hit 34 winners to 22 unforced errors. He also won nearly twice as many points as Lu, 92-55.
“Second and third sets were really good. I thought I found my rhythm. First set was up and down,” Djokovic said. “But I'll take the positives out of it, and I'm hoping I can progress as the tournament goes on.”
In the second round, Djokovic will face Belgian qualifier Steve Darcis, No. 161 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. Darcis beat Turkish qualifier Marsel Ilhan 6-3, 6-4, 6-0. At Wimbledon in 2013, Darcis became the first person to beat Rafael Nadal in the first round of a Grand Slam.
“He's been around the tour for many years. He had a couple of big wins,” Djokovic said. “I haven't seen him play much on clay. I'm going to have to do a little bit of homework there.”
Djokovic has won every Grand Slam except Roland Garros. The right-hander reached the final three times but lost every time, including last year to Stan Wawrinka in four sets. With a title this fortnight, Djokovic would become just the eighth man in history to complete the career Grand Slam.
“It's not the first time that I'm experiencing such anticipation and expectations,” Djokovic said. “I try to use it as a motivation to inspire myself, to play well, to stay calm and focus only on the present moment.”
Lu had pulled off big wins in the past, including beating fifth seed Andy Roddick at Wimbledon in 2010 and then-World No. 3 David Ferrer in Auckland in 2014. But Lu was playing in just his second event since November. The former World No. 33 underwent right elbow surgery in January. He reached the final at the Seoul Challenger earlier this month (l. to Stakhovsky).
ROLAND GARROS MATCH WINS LEADERS
- Djokovic is the only player in the Top 10 list without a title:
Eleventh seed David Ferrer got off to a quick start by dispatching Russian Evgeny Donskoy 6-1, 6-2, 6-0. Ferrer won 82 per cent of his first-serve points and erased the only break point he faced during the first-round match. “I'm very happy about this win,” he said.
This is the first year Ferrer is playing at Roland Garros without having won a clay-court title since 2009. The Spaniard, the 2013 runner-up in Paris (l. to Nadal), will face Argentine Juan Monaco, who beat Denis Istomin 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-5. “This year was not as smooth as other years, but these are things that happen,” Ferrer said. “As long as I enjoy playing tennis, as long as I keep being motivated, things are okay.”
Kevin Anderson will not be playing in the second round at Roland Garros for the first time in six years. The 18th seed fell to French wild card Stephane Robert 6-4, 6-2, 1-6, 7-5. The South African was playing in just his seventh tournament of the season, having struggled with shoulder and ankle injuries.
After being one set from defeat when play was suspended due to darkness on Monday night, second seed Andy Murray completed the comeback over qualifier Radek Stepanek on Tuesday, defeating the Czech veteran 3-6, 3-6, 6-0, 6-3, 7-5.
It is the ninth time in his career that Murray has completed a comeback from two sets down, and the third time he has done so at Roland Garros, having also fought past Richard Gasquet in the 2010 first round and Viktor Troicki in the 2011 fourth round.Comeback Kings
"It's unbelievable what he's doing," said Murray in his on-court interview with Cedric Pioline. "He had an extremely bad injury last year and was our for eight or nine months. At 37 years old and coming out and fighting like that, playing that way, is unbelievable. I don't expect to be doing that myself at that age! I'm just glad I managed to get through.
"He was serving very well and hardly missed any volleys, apart from the one on match point, which almost went over as well. I wasn't able to dictate many of the points, I wasn't in a great rhythm and that's credit to him and the way he played.
"Yesterday I had a bit of momentum when we stopped, but coming out today anything could happen. Both of us had chances in the fifth set and thankfully I managed to grab mine at the end when he made a couple of mistakes. I fought extremely hard today and I get the chance to play again tomorrow."
Play was suspended with Murray well on the way with his comeback on Monday evening. After dropping the first two sets, the Scot had upped his intensity and added extra power to his groundstrokes as he reeled off nine straight games to fight his way back into contention.
The pair returned to Court Philippe Chatrier on Tuesday with Murray leading 4-2 in the fourth set. The Scot saved two break points in the opening game, holding for a 5-2 lead, before going to on to clinch the set and force a decider.
Stepanek saved break points in the first and fifth games of the fifth set as Murray struggled to break down the 37-year-old Czech, who continued to frustrate Murray as he had done in the first two sets. Stepanek was two points from victory twice in the 10th game, with Murray serving at 4-5, but the Scot held on and immediately broke Stepanek in the next game as the Czech hit a forehand in the net. Murray double faulted on his first match point, but made no mistake on his second opportunity as Stepanek volleyed into the net.
"It's never easy playing a match over two days," said Murray. "Especially when it ended up being just a one-set shoot-out really in the end, with him always ahead and starting serving. I was having chances and not getting them. Then I was always having to play from behind. So it was very tough.
"I was actually starting to play quite well [last night], and then I have to come out the next day again and do it against a very tough opponent who has a very unorthodox game. Makes it very tricky. It was not easy at all."
The 29-year-old Murray came into Roland Garros on the back of his third ATP World Tour clay-court title in Rome, where he defeated Novak Djokovic in the final. The Dunblane native has reached the semi-finals in Paris the past two years.
Seventh seed Tomas Berdych claimed his first win in three meetings with Vasek Pospisil as he dismissed the Canadian 6-3, 6-2, 6-1. The Czech converted eight of his 13 break points and struck 27 winners to just 15 unforced errors.
The 30-year-old Berdych returned to top form in style as he played his first match since suffering the first double bagel of his career against David Goffin in the Rome second round two weeks ago. The Czech has since parted company with coach, Dani Vallverdu.
Berdych enjoyed his best result at Roland Garros six years ago, when he reached the semi-finals (l. to Soderling). The right-hander goes on to face Malez Jaziri, who defeated Florian Mayer 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2.
In a first-round clash between two of the ATP World Tour’s #NextGen stars, Borna Coric was too good for Taylor Fritz, beating the American 6-3, 6-1, 6-3. The 19-year-old Croat reached the third round at Roland Garros on his debut last year, falling to Jack Sock. Coric next will meet 20th seed Bernard Tomic after the 23-year-old Australian defeated Brian Baker 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
"I knew he played well here before and it was going to be tough," said Tomic of his win over Baker, who is making his comeback on the ATP World Tour this year after being sidelined since the 2013 US Open. "He doesn't give me rhythm. He's attacking a lot.
"For me I knew I had to be on my game and play well. I was happy, very happy. There were times I just didn't feel comfortable on court. I was happy with the win today for sure."
The nine-time champion never faced a break point and breezed past Australian Sam Groth 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 in an hour and 20 minutes to move into the second round. The Spaniard lost only five points on his serve (40/45), landed 84 per cent of his first serves and hit 25 winners to three unforced errors.
“It's obvious that it was a good start for me. The most important thing that I had to do today, I did well, which was return. I played without making many mistakes,” Nadal said.
Groth, meanwhile, struggled to get his serve-and-volley game going. The Aussie, who was looking for his first win at Roland Garros and just his second tour-level clay-court match win, donated nine double faults and landed only 58 per cent of his first serves.
Nadal, who won Roland Garros in 2005-08 and 2010-14, is trying to become the first player in the Open Era to win 10 titles at any Grand Slam event. He already is the only man in history to have won five consecutive titles at Roland Garros. The World No. 5 is now 71-2 in Paris.
“It's great to play here in France and in Roland Garros. I feel always the support of the crowd here,” Nadal said. “[This] is the most important place in my career, so to feel the support of the people here is something very special for me... Thank them for that.”
Dominic Thiem matched his best performance at Roland Garros by reaching the second round. Thiem, who defended his title at the Open de Nice Cote d’Azur on Saturday, dismissed Spaniard Inigo Cervantes 3-6, 6-2, 7-5, 6-1.
Thiem, along with Nadal and Pablo Cuevas, are the only players on the ATP World Tour who have won multiple clay-court crowns this year. The 13th seed will play another Spaniard in the second round, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who beat Thiemo de Bakker in four sets.
In a match that started on Monday, John Isner prevailed against Australian John Millman, who was making his Roland Garros debut, 6-7(4), 7-6(12), 7-6(7), 7-5. Isner, the 15th seed, hit 40 aces to advance in a match that originally was scheduled for Sunday. It was Isner's second match since 10 April because of a knee injury. The 6'10” 30 year old lost to Lukas Rosol in Geneva last week.
“It's a big confidence booster for me. I've had a lot of extremely close matches this year and also came into this tournament without much match play at all,” Isner said. “There were some moments in that match that I just went AWOL a bit on my serve. Three times I lost my serve. I played some pretty poor games. I'm up 30-Love, and next thing you know, minute later I lose the game.
“That stuff comes with match toughness, I think. But getting through this one was crucial for me. I'm very happy to be moving on.”
Quentin Halys, another #NextGen player, also advanced to celebrate his first main-draw win at Roland Garros. The 19-year-old Frenchman dismissed fellow #NextGen player Hyeon Chung of South Korea 6-1, 6-4, 6-4. Halys broke Chung five times and lost his serve only once.
“It was great to play against Chung today, and also to have some guys who are better than us. Of course it's great to be a part of the Next Generation on the ATP. It's a good motivation,” Halys said. “I'm working hard every day and it pays off. I didn't expect to play that well on clay so quickly, but I'm working hard. I intend to continue.”