Tennis: Nadal survives early scare at French Open

Rafael Nadal made it through one of his toughest matches at the French Open as he defeated Germany's Daniel Brands in four sets to advance into the second round. The seven-time champion started the defence of his title with an surprisingly tough 4-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 6-3 win over the world number 59.

Nadal was in all sorts of trouble at a set down and 0-3 in the second set tie-break, a situation that was fairly similar to his last match at a Grand Slam tournament when Lukas Rosol caused one of the biggest upsets in tennis history when he beat Nadal at Wimbledon last year. Brands was serving well and hitting the ball flat from all over the place, forcing Nadal to defend. "Sometimes, when you feel you are hitting not a bad shot and every time comes back a bomb and a winner from the beginning, sometimes that's frustrating," Nadal said after the match.

This time Nadal kept cool and fought his way out of trouble to take the second set with consecutive forehand and backhand winners down the line. Then he managed to break the Brands serve for the first time in the match, but had to defend off three break points as the German pushed him all the way in the third set. Two breaks in the fourth set brought Nadal to a comfortable finish, but his 53rd win in 54 matches at Roland Garros was one of the toughest as well as he dropped only the 15th set in that remarkable run.

"At two sets to love, I don't say that I wouldn't have a chance, because I always hope that there is a chance and I will keep fighting," said Nadal. "But you have to play under a lot of pressure the rest of the match. So I found the solution at the right time. At 5-4 in the tie-break I think I played two break points - one winner with my forehand down the line, and then a fantastic return winner down the line with my backhand. In the right moment I hit two fantastic shots and that probably was the match."

Nadal will play Martin Klizan, the world number 35 from Slovakia, in round two. Despite the tough first round match Nadal remains the favourite to win the tournament, here are the odds at Bet365 for the top three players:

Rafael Nadal - 4/6
Novak Djokovic - 9/4
Roger Federer - 15/2

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