Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 18 October 2019

French Open: Rafael Nadal may have relied on YouTube to beat unknown German qualifier

Defending champion beats Yannick Hanfmann to set up second round clash against Yannick Maden

Spain's Rafael Nadal eyes the ball before playing a forehand return Germany's Yannick Hanfmann. Thomas Samson / AFP
Spain's Rafael Nadal eyes the ball before playing a forehand return Germany's Yannick Hanfmann. Thomas Samson / AFP

Defending champion Rafael Nadal got his bid for a record-extending 12th French Open title off to the perfect start by brushing aside German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann, while world No 1 Novak Djokovic was also a comfortable victor in the first round at Roland Garros on Monday.

Nadal, a 17-time grand slam champion, cruised to a 6-2, 6-1, 6-3 victory on the rebuilt Court Philippe Chatrier to set up a clash with another German qualifier - world No 114 Yannick Maden - in Round 2.

Nadal had suffered three consecutive semi-final defeats earlier in the clay-court season, but appeared to find his best in an Italian Open title success sealed with victory over old rival Djokovic, while his French Open win-loss record now reads 87-2.

"It's always amazing to play here, the new Chatrier is very nice," the second seed said. "It's been an important place in my career.

"I played a good tournament in Rome which was very important for my confidence. Now we'll see."

Nadal, 32, raced into a 3-0 lead in the opening set before a second break of serve in the eighth game sealed it after just 40 minutes.

The second set was over in a flash as Nadal crushed nine winners past his beleaguered opponent.

The winning line honed into view when Nadal broke after a lengthy game to take a 2-1 advantage in the third, and the Spaniard completed the job on his first match point as world No 184 Hanfmann blasted long.

Maden, Nadal's next opponent, had won just one match on tour in 2019 before he doubled that tally by beating Belgium's Kimmer Coppejans 7-6, 7-5, 6-3 to give him a clash with Nadal.

Like Hanfmann, 29-year-old Maden played college tennis in the United States and until Monday had yet to register a win at the majors.

"With YouTube you can find things," Nadal said of the potential pitfalls of facing the relative unknowns of Hanfmann and Maden.

Serbia's Novak Djokovic flashes a thumbs up as he celebrates winning his first round match. Pavel Golovkin / AP Photo
Serbia's Novak Djokovic flashes a thumbs up as he celebrates winning his first round match. Pavel Golovkin / AP Photo

Djokovic impresses

Djokovic laid down an early marker in his bid to hold all four grand slam titles simultaneously for the second time, powering past Polish youngster Hubert Hurkacz.

The 15-time major champion impressed in a 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 triumph and will face Swiss lucky loser Henri Laaksonen in Round 2.

"I was very solid. I'm happy with my game today," the top seed said. "It's a long tournament... But I just want to concentrate on my next match."

Twelve months ago, Djokovic dropped out of the world's top 20 after a shock quarter-final loss to Marco Cecchinato and even pondered skipping Wimbledon, but he has instead reclaimed his place at the top of the game.

Hurkacz, 22, who has claimed three wins over top-10 players this season, had no answer to the 2016 French Open winner, as Djokovic sealed a second-round spot without breaking sweat, hitting 27 winners.

Later in the day, 23-time women's major champion Serena Williams takes on Russia's Vitalia Diatchenko.

Meanwhile, three-time grand slam champion Stan Wawrinka eased into the second round with a four-set win over Slovakian Jozef Kovalik.

The 34-year-old lost the second set in a tie-break but was otherwise dominant in a 6-1, 6-7, 6-2, 6-3 victory on Court Simonne Mathieu.

The 2015 French Open winner Wawrinka, who slipped out of the world's top 200 after injuries last year, is the 24th seed in Paris and will next face in-form Chilean Cristian Garin.

Updated: May 27, 2019 09:01 PM

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