Playing in his first grass-court match in two years, Rafael Nadal looked like his dominant self on Monday, avoiding an early shocker at The Championships and cruising past Aussie John Millman 6-1, 6-3, 6-2 to earn his 850th match win. Nadal becomes just the seventh player to reach 850 match wins – after Jimmy Connors, Roger Federer, Ivan Lendl, Guillermo Vilas, John McEnroe and Andre Agassi.
“It was a very positive match for me, a good start… I am through to the second round. That’s a very important thing for me. And I happy because I didn’t win a lot of matches the last couple of years here in Wimbledon. Today I win one, and I am looking forward to play the second one,” Nadal said.
The Spaniard was playing in his first grass-court match since 2015 Wimbledon, when he fell in the second round to the serve-and-volleying German Dustin Brown. Nadal missed last year’s Wimbledon because of a left wrist injury and skipped last month’s Aegon Championships at The Queen’s Club to rest, following his record-breaking clay-court season.
Nadal won 24 of his 25 matches, including four titles – Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell, Mutua Madrid Open and Roland Garros – on the red clay. The run propelled him to No. 2 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, and if the Spaniard can reach his sixth Wimbledon final, he will return to the No. 1 Emirates ATP Ranking for the first time since 23 June 2014. Nadal’s remarkable stretch also helped him become the first player to qualify for this year’s Nitto ATP Finals.
|Rafael Nadal||2008, 2010, 2017?|
|Rod Laver||1962, 1969|
Unlike the red clay, though, the grass at Wimbledon has not always been so kind to Nadal. He’s had his peaks: From 2006-2011, he reached the final five times and won two titles (2008, d. Federer; 2010, d. Berdych).
But the Spaniard hasn’t reached past the quarter-finals since 2011, when he fell in the final to Novak Djokovic. During Nadal’s past four Wimbledon appearances, he’s fallen to players ranked No. 100 or lower in the Emirates ATP Rankings: No. 100 Lukas Rosol in 2012, No. 135 Steve Darcis in 2013, No. 144 Nick Kyrgios in 2014 and No. 102 Brown in 2015.
Millman came into the match at No. 137, but Nadal quickly stomped out any early upset hopes. The 31-year-old Nadal broke the Aussie to start the match and twice more in the opener to take the first set after only 33 minutes.
The Spaniard moved Millman from side to side, mixed up his serve and smashed winners from all over the court. At 15/0, 4-2 in the second set, Nadal slapped a forehand winner on the run that elicited a “Vamos” from the left-hander. He’d clinch the second set on his racquet.
“At the beginning I started trying to not have a lot of mistakes, playing more safe. I finished the match hitting some great forehands. That’s the way. I need to play aggressive with my forehand. Obviously I need to serve well. That’s the only way that I can have chances to have a good result here,” Nadal said.
He would break Millman three more times in the third set to advance after one hour and 45 minutes. Nadal will next face Donald Young of the U.S., who moved into the second round when Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin retired after two hours and 12 minutes. Young led 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, 4-2.
Nadal On The Grass At Wimbledon
|2015||Second Round||102||Dustin Brown|
|2014||Round of 16||144||Nick Kyrgios|
|2013||First Round||135||Steve Darcis|
|2012||Second Round||100||Lukas Rosol|
|2010||Champion||13||d. Tomas Berdych|
|2008||Champion||1||d. Roger Federer|
|2005||Second Round||69||Gilles Muller|
|2003||Third Round||11||Paradorn Srichaphan|