Rafa dazzled by Wimbledon sun in first round win

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LONDON, June 28 (Reuters) - Rafael Nadal blamed sunshine for making his first round at Wimbledon a little more challenging on Tuesday.

It was an unlikely comment from a man raised on the sun-kissed island of Majorca and competing in a city hardly renowned for its weather.

But he did also credit his athletic opponent Francisco Cerundolo with playing his part in stretching an absorbing contest to four sets.

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"I was more or less under control with two sets and one break up. But then the sun was crazy there," Nadal said.

"For a righty probably it is not a problem, but for a lefty where the sun is ... I was losing the ball completely."

Nadal, seeking a third Grand Slam title in a row, was not unhappy with the way he played despite a series of unforced errors. It was his first competitive outing on the Wimbledon grass for three years and he won 6-4 6-3 3-6 6-4.

"Today was a victory. I spent a long time on court. I really hope that will help," he said.

"I think I need to keep improving things. But at the end of the match I improved. At the most critical moment, I think I raised my level. That's a very positive thing."

Argentine Cerundolo upped his game in the third set of the three-hour 33-minute match as second seed Nadal's energy dropped and the crowd sensed an upset.

"He played at very high level for such a long time. He puts pressure, playing aggressive on both sides," Nadal said of his 41st-ranked opponent who is 13 years his junior and broke into the top 100 only in February.

Seasoned warrior Nadal, 36, has a men's record 22 Grand Slam triumphs to his name, two more than top seed Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, who is missing Wimbledon for the first time since 1999 because of a knee injury.

Few would bet against a Nadal-Djokovic showpiece match as the seedings suggest.

But it is unlikely that sunshine in SW19 will be a major factor in the final outcome.

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Reporting by Clare Lovell; Editing by Ken Ferris

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