Rafael Nadal opened his Wimbledon title defense in convincing style today, shaking off an early service break and cruising to a 6-4 6-2 6-2 victory over Michael Russell.
In keeping with tradition, the defending men's champion played the first match on Centre Court at the All England Club and the top-ranked Spaniard put on a worthy performance to kick off proceedings on the 125th edition of the championships.
Five-time women's champion Venus Williams, back on her favorite grass surface, also swept into the second round with a straight-set win over 97th-ranked Akgul Amanmuradova of Uzbekistan. Nadal, coming off his sixth straight French Open title and 10th overall Grand Slam championship, double-faulted to go down a break 4-2 in the first set against the 91st-ranked Russell.
But Nadal buckled down, ran off six straight games to take the set and go up a break in the second. He was in total command the rest of the way against the 33-year-old American. "I started so-so in the first set, but after that I start to hit very well the forehand and I think I finished playing a very good level," Nadal said. The two players shared a laugh after Russell successfully challenged what had been ruled an ace by Nadal on match point. Nadal won the next point, though, to finish the match in just under two hours.