Rafael Nadal overcame a scare in his Wimbledon opener on Tuesday, fighting back from dropping the third set and falling a break down in the fourth to eventually see off Argentina’s Francisco Cerundolo.
Second seed Nadal, playing on grass for the first time since his 2019 Wimbledon semi-final loss to Roger Federer, triumphed 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 over 41st-ranked Cerundolo, who was making his All England Club debut.
But the 36-year-old Spaniard, who has already captured the Australian and French Opens this year to stand halfway to the first men’s calendar Slam since 1969, did it the hard way.
After coasting through the first two sets on Centre Court, he surrendered an early break in the third set and then had to claw his way back from 3-1 and 4-2 down in the fourth.
“Three years without being here on this amazing surface, it is amazing to be back,” said Nadal.
“We don’t play very often on grass, especially in my case. In the last three years, I didn’t put a foot on the grass.”
Nadal, the 2008 and 2010 Wimbledon champion, arrived at the tournament with question marks over his durability for the two weeks having played the entire French Open with his troublesome left foot anaesthetised.
He has since undergone a course of radiofrequency stimulation, a treatment aimed at reducing nerve pain in his foot.
“Every day is a test. I am at the beginning of the tournament and everyone knows the difficult circumstances that I had,” he said.
“But for me, the most important thing is that I am at Wimbledon in 2022 and I won the first match.”
Nadal will take on Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania for a place in the last 32.
The Spaniard’s bid for a third title at the tournament was boosted earlier Tuesday when 2021 runner-up Matteo Berrettini, a potential semi-final opponent, withdrew after testing positive for Covid.