Nadal fires early warning to the big guns

Tue Jun 30, 2015 12:17pm EDT
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By Mitch Phillips

LONDON (Reuters) - Rafa Nadal might have been condemned to a lowly 10th seeding at Wimbledon but he remains a floater everyone will want to avoid after getting his campaign off to an impressive start with a straight-sets dismissal of Thomaz Bellucci on Tuesday.

The twice champion, who has slipped down the sport’s pecking order after a year of injury and below-par performances, showed glimpses of his power and determination in a 6-4 6-2 6-4 win over Brazil's Bellucci on a sun-drenched Number One Court.

If the draw goes to plan Nadal will have to get past Andy Murray and Roger Federer to earn a shot at a third title, potentially against top seed Novak Djokovic in the final.

Tuesday's clash was never going to be in that league. The two players had met five times previously and the nearest the Brazilian came to taking a set was when he forced a tiebreak -– which he lost to love -– during his first-round defeat at Wimbledon three years ago.

Nadal had warmed up for this year's tournament by winning on the grass of Stuttgart, though he went out in the first round at Queens.

Nadal initially struggled to calibrate his forehand and was wayward with his serving but he eventually settled and began smashing Bellucci into submission with his heavyweight backhand.

The Brazilian must have known it was not to be his day when, fighting to stay in the first set, he allowed an under-hit Nadal lob to bounce and planted his smash into the net from two metres.

The crowd gasped in sympathy and duly accorded him a very British ovation when he responded to the gaffe with an ace on his next serve.   Continued...

Rafael Nadal of Spain hits a shot during his match against Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in London, June 30, 2015. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth