Rafael Nadal escaped a tough first-round test and the Covid-19 chaos in his half of the draw to advance to the second round at Wimbledon.
Nadal, who has won the first two legs of the calendar Grand Slam for the first time in his career, survived and advanced over Argentina’s Francisco Cerúndolo, 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, in 3 hours, 33 minutes. He is now 15-0 in majors this season after winning the Australian and French Opens to increase his all-time men’s record to 22 Grand Slam singles titles.
“The most important thing is I am in Wimbledon 2022 and I won the first match,” Nadal said on court.
Nadal has so far escaped the Covid chaos in his half of the draw that caused last year’s runner-up, Matteo Berrettini, and Marin Cilic to pull out of the draw. Nadal was drawn to meet Cilic, the 2017 Wimbledon runner-up in the fourth routh, and Berrettini in the semifinals.
Czech players Barbora Krejcikova and Marie Bouzkova withdrew from the French Open after contracting the virus.
“At some point… we all might have had the flu,” former world number 11 Alize Cornet told reporters at Wimbledon after her victory Tuesday.
“At Roland Garros, yes, I think there have been a few cases and it’s a tacit agreement between us. We are not going to self-test to get into trouble. Afterwards, I saw girls wearing masks, maybe because they knew and didn’t want to pass on.
Wimbledon has not put Covid-19 restrictions in place this year and vaccination and testing is not mandatory for players to participate.
Nadal, meantime, is back at Wimbledon for the first time since 2019 and is seeking his first Wimbledon title since 2010. He is drawn to meet No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic in the final. Djokovic has said he has added motivation to win his fourth straight Wimbledon because he is not currently permitted in the U.S. to play the U.S. Open because he is not vaccinated against Covid-19.
“It’s obvious that for me have been three years without playing here, without being in this amazing surface, so very happy to be back,” Nadal said.
He added: “[Grass] is not a surface that we play very often. And in my case, the last three years I didn’t put a foot on a grass court, no? So always take a while…As I know, every day is a test and today have been one of these important tests, no?”
After winning his 14th French Open and 22nd Grand Slam title June 5, Nadal said he planned to have radiofrequency ablation – which uses heat on the nerve to quell long-term pain – but would have to consider surgery if that treatment did not work. The tennis legend suffers from Mueller-Weiss syndrome – a rare degenerative condition that affects bones in the feet. He said he played through the French Open because he received multiple anaesthetic injections during the tournament.
“I know at the beginning of the tournament, especially at the physical stature that I arrived here,” he said of Wimbledon, “the victory is the most important thing because that gives me the chance to practice tomorrow again and to have another match in two days. And I am happy for that, without a doubt.”