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.
The match eventually fell into a pattern of Bellucci holding his own early in the rallies before finding himself stretched and eventually beaten by Nadal’s superior power and accuracy, before reaching its natural conclusion in just over two hours.
“I am a little bit more confident now than I was few months ago, it’s just day by day for me,” Nadal told reporters.
“In the last two months I’ve been playing much more solid almost every tournament.”
The winner of 14 grand slams said he had no problem with his lowly seeding.
”I‘m number 10 because I deserve to be,“ he said. ”That’s what happens with one-year rankings.
”When you are injured for six months and you come back and you are not able to play great, number 10 is a great number.
“But I‘m going to work hard to be higher.”
Editing by Ed Osmond