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Living to see another day

sports Updated: May 28, 2013 02:18 IST
Rafael Nadal

All seemed normal as Rafael Nadal walked on to Chatrier Court to begin his pursuit of an eighth French Open title but Germany's Daniel Brands ensur-ed it was no regular Monday at the office for the defending champion who survived a huge scare.

Nadal, as expected, took his place in the second round but his 4-6, 7-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over the inspired German who had never won a main draw match at Roland Garros was fraught with danger as he flirted with the unthinkable.

"He was playing unbelievable tennis and I was just trying to find my game and resist his great shots and I'm very happy to be through," a relieved Nadal said in a courtside interview after peeling off his knee bandages.

After a relatively thrill-free opening day on Sunday, fans flocked to the brick dust courts beside the Bois de Boulogne to feast their eyes on a line-up loaded with big names.

Former women's champion Li Na began with a grafting 6-3, 6-4 first round win against Spain's Anabel Medina Garrigues while home fans dreaming of a first French men's champion here since 1983 cheered loudly as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga turned on the style.

Several women's seeds progressed, including China's 2011 champion Li, who made light of poor head-to-head record against Medina Garrigues to move through.

Fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska, playing despite a painful shoulder, thrashed Israel's Shahar Peer 6-1 6-1 while former world No 1 Caroline Wozniacki ended a dreadful recent run of first-round defeats to beat Britain's Laura Robson 6-3 6-2.

Noah not convinced
Tsonga, the sixth seed and looking to become the first French player to win the men’s title since Yannick Noah in 1983, outclassing Slovenia's Aljaz Bedene 6-2, 6-2, 6-3 with a performance of pace and power. But Noah is not convinced that Tsonga or the likes of compatriots Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet have what it takes to be Grand Slam winners.

"It's not that I think they are no good. It's just that the guys ahead of them are stronger," said Noah. "Jo is capable of beating a top five player at any time, if he plays an exceptional match, but he can't do that twice in a row. Nadal, Djokovic, Federer, over five sets, they are just better."

‘More transparency’
Nadal bristled when asked about the frequency of testing. He favours revealing who is being tested and how often. He says if such procedures were in place, such questions about drug testing would not have to be asked.

All top players are subject to testing without warning. Nadal says the results reflect well on the tour. Nadal says tennis is a "very clean sport... We don't have a lot of cases of doping."