ISRAEL’S DUDI SELA in action during yesterday’s first-round match against Spain's Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon, which Nadal won in straight sets. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
LONDON – There was never a chance Rafael Nadal would take anything for granted as he walked out on Center Court to play Israel’s Dudi Sela in the Wimbledon first round on Tuesday.
Thirty-three-year-old Israeli Sela might be 127th in the world, but since Nadal won the last of his two Wimbledon titles in 2010 four players with three-digit rankings have scythed him down on the grass.
Sela did not join Lukas Rosol, Steve Darcis, Nick Kyrgios and Dustin Brown on the list of Rafa slayers, though, as a fired-up Nadal romped to a 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory.
Nadal had played no competitive grass-court matches since bounding to a record-extending 11th French Open title last month, but it mattered not as the 32-year-old made an impressive start to his quest for a third French Open/Wimbledon double.
After being cheered loudly on to court, the world No. 1 and second seed looked totally at home on the still-lush turf, thumping 31 clean winners past a skillful opponent who lacked the kind of big weapons needed to worry Nadal on grass.
Sela resisted well early on, playing his part in some eye-catching rallies, but when he double-faulted to drop serve at 3-4 Nadal assumed control.
Nadal moved two sets clear with a punishing forehand return and although he double-faulted to gift Sela a break at the start of the third he repaired the damage and powered to victory.
The 17-time Grand Slam is looking to emulate his 2008 and 2010 feats when he won the Wimbledon title fresh from triumphing on the Parisian clay.
Only Bjorn Borg has managed it three times, his doubles coming in successive years from 1978-1980.
In other action, Novak Djokovic rolled to a 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 defeat of American Tennys Sandgren was an impressive way to kick off his challenge for a fourth title at the All England Club.
Meanwhile, unheralded Aliaksandra Sasnovich scored a big upset by recording a stunning 6-4, 4-6, 6-0 first-round victory over two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova.
Also, Simona Halep, the newest member of the Grand Slam champions’ club, demolished Kurumi Nara 6-2, 6-4 to reach the second round.