Paris: Rafa Nadal produced an imperious show on Wednesday to secure his 300th Grand Slam match victory, dismantling local hope Corentin Moutet 6-3 6-1 6-4 to book his spot in the French Open third round.
Nadal counts 13 Roland Garros titles among his overall 21 majors - the highest among men - and despite his injury-blighted build up to the claycourt tournament he has looked at his usual best in the first two rounds.
The Spaniard, whose preparations were hampered by a rib injury and a foot problem, was not keen to talk about his physical condition.
“I can’t try to go very deep in a tournament if I’m worried about my physical issues every single day,” he told reporters.
“So if something happens, I am gonna accept it. But for the moment I am focused on the tennis.”
The Spaniard, who turns 36 next week, will next meet Dutch 26th seed Botic van de Zandschulp with a potential quarter-final looming against world number one Novak Djokovic who defeated him in last year’s semi-finals.
Playing under the lights at Court Philippe Chatrier, Nadal peppered the red clay with winners from both his forehand and backhand in the first two sets to leave Moutet stranded.
In his first career meeting with the 23-year-old French wildcard, Nadal broke Moutet’s serve four times in the first two sets but uncharacteristic errors at the start of the third allowed his opponent to take a 2-0 lead.
Nadal immediately broke back, however, to get the set back on serve and after another exchange of breaks, the Spaniard broke Moutet again to seal victory on his first match point.
“Preparation hasn’t been perfect so I didn’t expect a perfect start to the tournament,” Nadal said.
“But it has been going quite well. I am positive about the things that I did out there tonight. Of course, there is room to improve and I need to improve if I want to keep having chances to go deeper.”
Great battle: Alcaraz
Spanish teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz and third seed Alexander Zverev both saved a match point in five-set thrillers earlier. Alcaraz, widely tipped as a title contender, rallied from the brink to defeat compatriot Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-1, 6-7 (7/9), 5-7, 7-6 (7/2), 6-4 after four hours and 34 minutes.
“I feel tired,” said Alcaraz. “It was a great battle, a great match and we fought until the last point.”
Zverev, a 2021 semi-finalist, dug himself out of a deep hole against Argentina’s Sebastian Baez to avoid his earliest loss at a major in three years. He overcame Baez 2-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 7-5 and will play Brandon Nakashima of the US for a place in the last 16.
“I’m happy still being in the tournament right now,” said Zverev, who was match point down on serve at 4-5 in the final set.