Things were tight between Rafael Nadal and Guido Pella for the first 15 minutes of their second round encounter at the French Open Thursday. But King of Clay pulled away with a resounding 6-2, 6-1, 6-1 victory on Lenglen.
“I’m happy about the things that happened this afternoon, of course. I played a solid match, and it’s true that during the match I improved the level. The forehand, especially after the first set, I think it starts to go quicker and find more of the right spots, playing more inside the court and hitting many more winners,” Nadal said.
“So just happy for that and happy about the concentration that I was able to hold all the time, the right focus on the match to keep doing things better and better.”
Nadal has never lost to a lefty at the French Open. And won’t play one in the next round because Richard Gasquet is up next. The French dropped the second but won in four 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-0.
Nadal could face another lefty in the fourth round on Monday. Maximilian Marterer pulled the upset of the day stunning the 19-year-old Canadian Denis Shapovalov 5-7, 7-6(4), 7-5, 6-4.
Marterer failed to serve out the second at 5-4, but got the job done in the breaker and then hung on to reach his first French Open third round.
“The plan was to serve well and be tough in my service games, so that he didn’t get too many chances to break,” said Marterer. “That was key today. He plays with a really heavy, heavy forehand, so I tried to keep [the ball] a little on his backhand. I think I managed [the plan] really well after losing first set, especially. It was good that I could raise the quality of my return, so he also had some problems in his service games after this.”
The 22-year-old from Germany isn’t talked about much among the new crop, that could change especially since he’ll be favored over Jurgen Zopp who came from two sets down to deny fellow “lucky loser” Ruben Bemelmens in 5 sets.
Also, Juan Martin del Potro retired Julien Benneteau from the French Open, with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. The 36-year-old Benneteau is set to retire from tennis at the US Open.
Del Potro moves on to face former quarterfinalist Albert Ramos Vinolas.
Americans Steve Johnson and John Isner both advanced after dropping the first set to win in four over Jan-Lennard Struff and Horacio Zeballos, respectively.
Alexander Zverev’s older brother, Mischa, was a winner over lucky loser Sergiy Stakhovsky. He now gets Kevin Anderson who scored an impressive win over Pablo Cuevas.
No. 3 seed Marin Cilic has a much tougher day than predicted, fighting in four sets to fend off Pol Hubert Hurkacz 6-2, 6-2, 6-7(3), 7-5.
“I felt that I just took my foot off the gas and just gave him a little bit more room to breathe,” Cilic said. “I felt like I was constantly close to breaking. I just felt like I was not returning as good as I can and just missed some returns, especially in some critical moments. And then the fourth set he was serving well… there were not many opportunities, but luckily I finished it in a good way.”
And in the last match of the day, Pierre-Hugues Herbert earned a trip into his first French Open third round with a 9-7 in the fifth win over countryman Jeremy Chardy.
In Wednesday carryover matches, Dominic Thiem finished off Stefanos Tsitsipas and Lucas Pouille hung on to beat Cameron Norrie.
On Friday, the third round gets underway with Novak Djokovic taking on the heavy-hearted Roberto Bautista Agut who just lost his mother a few weeks ago.
Gael Monfils will have Lenglen rocking as he duels David Goffin, Kei Nishikori clashes with Gilles Simon and Grigor Dimitrov faces Fernando Verdasco.
FRIDAY FRENCH OPEN SCHEDULE
Court Philippe-Chatrier – Play starts at 11am
Damir DZUMHUR (BIH)  vs Alexander ZVEREV (GER) 
Pauline PARMENTIER (FRA) vs Caroline WOZNIACKI (DEN) 
Lucas POUILLE (FRA)  vs Karen KHACHANOV (RUS)
Camila GIORGI (ITA) vs Sloane STEPHENS (USA)
Court Suzanne-Lenglen – Play starts at 11am
Madison KEYS (USA)  vs Naomi OSAKA (JPN) 
Roberto BAUTISTA AGUT (ESP)  vs Novak DJOKOVIC (SRB) 
David GOFFIN (BEL)  vs Gael MONFILS (FRA) 
Petra KVITOVA (CZE)  vs Anett KONTAVEIT (EST) 
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