Rafael Nadal won his opening round match at the ATP 500 event in Basel, Switzerland, beating qualifier Simone Bolelli 6-2, 6-2. The match lasted 71 minutes and Nadal won 71 percent of points on his serve and broke his ATP 75th ranked opponent four times.
The Spaniard made few errors in the match, just six in total, and hit 13 winners, with six of those coming off his forehand. Bolelli, meanwhile, hit 15 winners, but made 20 unforced errors.
The world No. 3 controlled the match from the baseline as he won 42 of points played from the back of the court compared to 22 points won by Bolelli. There were few ventures to the net though on the Basel indoor courts with Nadal claiming one point up there and Bolelli winning three.
The win was the world No. 3’s first ever at the event. The Spaniard had entered the tournament twice before, in 2003 and 2004, but lost in his opening match each time, the first time to German Rainer Schuettler and the second time to countryman Feliciano Lopez. In the next round he will face qualifier Pierre-Hughes Herbert who beat Edouard Roger-Vasselin in a final set tiebreaker.
The Spaniard said after the match that he had played solidly, made few mistakes, and that “it was an important victory for me.” Bolelli, who has won four titles this year and is a nominee for the ATP comeback player of the year award, was a strong opening opponent and Nadal earned what was probably his most convincing win since his comeback win in Beijing in which he beat Richard Gasquet losing, as he did today, only four games. However, the nine time French Open champion did not manage to maintain that form in a disappointing run which has seen him compile a win-loss record of 2-2.
The Spaniard has had a tougher time than usual coming back from injury. Not only has the Spaniard just come back from a wrist injury but he is currently afflicted with appendicitis, a condition which he will need to have surgery on soon. Early losses in Beijing, where he was defeated by qualifier Martin Klizan, and Shanghai, where he lost his opening match to countryman Feliciano Lopez, have not given him the match toughness he needs before entering the season’s last two big events, the ATP 1000 event at Paris-Bercy, and the season ending ATP World Tour Finals in London, tournaments Nadal has not managed to win even in his best years. Whether or not Nadal will compete in those events is still up for debate with his upcoming surgery date still unknown.
With all the distractions of how his comeback will turn out, his appendicitis, and a possible early ending to his season, Nadal never looked anything less than focused as he cruised past Bolelli. Nadal said after the match that it was important to enjoy himself on the court and to enjoy ‘the love of the fans.’ Those fans will no doubt appreciate Nadal turning up to honor his commitment despite his current health struggles. The prospect of a Nadal final with top seed Roger Federer is an exciting one for both the organizers and the fans. The two have played only 4 times during the autumn indoor hard court circuit (Federer leads that head to head 3-1) and if they get to compete for a fifth time then the event and Nadal will consider the Spaniard’s third appearance in Basel a success.
Commentary by Christian Deverille
Photo courtesy of Marianne Bevis – License