Rafael Nadal’s quest for La Decima at the French Open began with what was an ultimately straightforward victory against Benoit Paire.
The nine-time French Open champion has been in fantastic form on clay this year, winning a 10th title at Barcelona and in Monte Carlo.
This was a potentially tricky first round for the title favourite. Paire is wildly inconsistent but has plenty of flair, and this was a relatively rare trip to the secondary Suzanne Lenglen court for a player who has made Philippe Chatrier his own backyard for the last decade.
The 28-year-old Frenchman brought his usual eccentric mix of tennis to the court, but Nadal looked to be on his way to an easy win as he took seven of the first eight games to lead by a set and a break.
But the world No 45, as he often does, found a burst of inspiration, reeling off three games in a row and gesturing to the partisan home crowd to raise the noise levels.
Nadal broke back immediately and then at 4-4 in the second set came the key game of the match.
Paire forced two break points but the world No 4 saved both, one with a backhand overhead that landed just inside the baseline.
Typically, the 30-year-old Spaniard was producing his best tennis on the biggest points.
Once he held to go 5-4 up, Nadal resumed full control, only losing one more game as he cantered towards the finish line.
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