'Rafael Nadal has done that for 20 years, nothing to do with luck,' says his rival
Rafael Nadal secured his 14th Roland Garros crown in June and hoped for more at Wimbledon a few weeks later. Competing at the All England Club for the first time since 2019, Nadal did not play at his best in the first match against Francisco Cerundolo. The Spaniard toppled the young Argentine 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 after grueling three hours and 33 minutes for a place in the second round. Nadal finished the match with 23 winners and 41 unforced errors, struggling to impose his strokes and losing ground after missing the first serve. Rafa fended off 14 out of 18 break points and delivered six breaks from 14 opportunities to emerge at the top and avoid an early setback. Cerundolo praised Nadal's ability to find the lines with his serve whenever he needed that. Also, the Argentine was not surprised by that, telling his coach that Rafa has been doing that for two decades. Nadal fended off four out of five break chances in the opening set and delivered two breaks to bring it home in 54 minutes despite a pale performance. The Spaniard raised his level in the second set and dropped only seven points in his games to keep the pressure on the other side. He stole half of the first-serve return points and claimed a single break that made the difference. Rafa saved a break point in game five and used the rival's error in the next one to forge a 4-2 advantage. Cerundolo fended off two set points on serve in game eight to reduce the deficit before Nadal held at love for 6-4, 6-3 in an hour and 42 minutes. With a boost on his side, Rafa broke in the third set's third game to move closer to the finish line. Francisco broke back at love a few minutes later with a return winner to lock the result at 2-2 and gain a boost. Nadal landed a wayward volley to face two break points in game eight and saved the first with a forehand crosscourt winner. Rafael Nadal defeated Francisco Cerundolo in the first round at Wimbledon. Rafa netted a backhand on the second to fall 5-3 behind and allow his rival to serve for the set. The ninth game turned into a roller coaster, with set and break chances all over the place. Cerundolo denied two break chances and seized the third set point for 6-3 and momentum. The Argentine converted the fifth break chance in the fourth set's game three to move in front, looking determined to force a decider. He saved break points in the next one and had four more opportunities that could have pushed him 4-1 ahead! Nadal worked hard to deny them and remained within one break deficit. The Spaniard raised his level from 2-4 and pulled the break back in game eight to lock the result at 4-4. He held a few minutes later and sent the pressure to the other side. Returning at 5-4, Nadal grabbed the desired break that sent him over the top, rattling off four straight games to emerge at the top. "I was very surprised by Rafa's serve. You might think he sets it up or throws it upside down. Still, I was surprised by his placement: he served on the line in all the important moments, at deuce or while saving a break point. After the match, I told my coach it had nothing to do with luck. Rafa has been doing that for 20 years," Francisco Cerundolo said.