(Reuters) - After washing the clay dust out of his socks following his ninth French Open crown, world number one Rafa Nadal switches to grass on Thursday with a second-round clash against wildcard Dustin Brown at the Gerry Weber Open.
The Spaniard, who beat Novak Djokovic to continue his Roland Garros domination on Sunday, has been practicing hard on the Halle lawns since arriving on Monday and is eager to get matches under his belt ahead of Wimbledon.
“Each training session and each match on grass is very, very important for me,” Nadal told the tournament website on Wednesday.
“It’s such a tough transition. You’ve got to give it all you’ve got to get into an ideal shape for the matches.”
Nadal suffered early losses at Wimbledon on his last two visits, to Lukas Rosol in 2012 and Steve Darcis last year and is leaving nothing to chance.
“In 2012, I had physical problems and last year I wasn’t at full strength,” the Mallorcan said. “Now I’ve got to and I want to show good form and get some self-confidence.”
Dreadlocked Brown proved by reaching the Wimbledon third round last year that he is a force on grass.
“You never know what to expect with him. He plays with a lot of inspiration, very aggressively,” said Nadal, who will be playing the 29-year-old for the first time.
Big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic’s Wimbledon preparations suffered a glitch with a shock defeat by lowly-ranked Peter Gojowczyk on Wednesday.
After a quarter-final run at the French Open, third seed Raonic struggled to find his grasscourt feet, losing 6-4 6-4 to the German ranked 120th in the world.
Raonic banged down eight aces but Gojowczyk thrived on the firepower heading his way, breaking once in each set to move into the quarter-finals.
“I just love it when somebody serves hard and fast because it serves my return, which actually is my best shot,” the 24-year-old Gojowczyk told the ATP’s website.
Japan’s Kei Nishikori, the world No.12, came through a tough encounter with Frenchman Gael Monfils, winning 6-1 3-6 6-3.
Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Ed Osmond