Some like it hot, and Rafael Nadal is definitely one of those people. Back in the day when everyone eyed a Nadal-Federer showdown right from the off, the talk was always of the weather and the courtside temperatures. The hotter the better for Rafa, whose whippy forehands would grip and fizz up like a spitting cobra to shoulder-height. Rog preferred to play things cool, quite literally. If the mercury stayed in the teens, then the ball would come through at hip height, allowing his flowing forehands and smooth backhands to find their range.
The name of the arch enemy may have changed but the vagaries of the climate are still having a say in Rafa’s progress here to a record eighth French Open title. The weather has been decidedly chilly thus far with temperatures struggling to maintain double figures. And like the turbo diesel that he is, Nadal has taken a while to warm up on the two occasions that we have seen him this year. Daniel Brands pick-pocketed the first set of their first-round joust before Rafa ran out a four-set winner, and Martin Klizan did the very same today.
The Slovak had 11 Grand Slams to his name before today – total matches played that is, which is as many as Nadal has titles – and it looked for an hour or so as if he would be the only of the two to make it 12 here this year. His lefty service was firing early, while Rafa was struggling to find his depth. At 3-3 Rafa double-faulted, both times via the net cord, to give his opponent two break points and only one would be needed as the seven-time champion put a forehand long. Klizan held service twice and the set was his.
As was the case for Brands on Monday, this proved to be as good as it got. Rafa got back to his customary dominant self, refusing to be reeled into the net as Klizan had managed to do to him in the opener, and normal service was resumed. "I have played very little tennis in three days so I started the match with probably not the right intensity with more doubts than usual," explained Nadal. "And positive thing - I had a good reaction at the beginning of the second set, playing the way I had to play, with good intensity."
Nadal always had enough in the tank to emerge victorious, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3, and book himself a third-round tie with No.27 seed Fabio Fognini. He will need to warm to the idea of playing in the cold however if he is to win number eight.