WIMBLEDON, England — It is not often that intrigue and doubt accompany the top-ranked men's tennis player to the opening round at Wimbledon. It was as if they were stored in the racket bag Rafael Nadal had slung over his shoulder as he entered Centre Court on Tuesday.
Nadal arrived on a three-match losing streak on grass, dating to his second-round loss at Wimbledon in 2012. He lost in the first round last year, to relatively unknown journeyman Steve Darcis. And in his first grasscourt appearance this month, Nadal lost in straight sets in the first round in the Gerry Weber Open at Halle, Germany, to Dustin Brown, ranked 79th and loser of his first-round match at Wimbledon on Monday to veteran Marcos Baghdatis.
That recent history seemed to override a deeper, more optimistic past, the one in which Nadal is a top-ranked, two-time Wimbledon champion fresh from his ninth French Open title. It turned Martin Klizan, a left-handed Slovakian, into a nothing-to-lose upset pick Tuesday.
But Nadal, with his whipping forehand and unflappable intensity, batted the speculation back and restored normalcy. He started slowly but scuttled the doubt with an ultimately emphatic 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 victory.
The match anchored Wimbledon's second day, speckled in sunshine and clouded by few surprises. Beyond Nadal, it featured breezier opening-round victories by Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova, who all advanced in straight sets.
Nadal's reaction after his win — pumping fists, raising arms aloft, tossing souvenirs to the crowd — was rather over the top for a guy who owns 14 Grand Slam titles.
"So happy for the victory. In the end, the match was difficult. After the first set, (it) was even more difficult," said Nadal, who is seeded No. 2 but acknowledged he himself approached his opening-round encounter with trepidation. "When you go on court and you lost last year in the first round, the year before in the second round … (I'm not) going to lie … it stays in your mind."
Federer strolled to a 6-1, 6-1, 6-3 victory over Paolo Lorenzi, an Italian with a career 0-13 record in Grand Slam matches. Only one player has a worse record than Lorenzi, Juan-Antonio Marin of Costa Rica at 0-17.
Federer, playing like a much younger version of himself, sprinkled in a fair bit of serve-and-volley, an old-school strategy he believes can give him an edge.
"I served well, returned well, also tried to come forward a bit," he said. "I could really do everything out there, so I'm very pleased with the first round."
Williams needed to cast aside four break points during a 10-minute first game, but after getting that out of the way, she breezed to a 6-1, 6-2 win against Anna Tatishvili. Sharapova opened with a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Great Britain's Samantha Murray, a 26-year-old granted a wild-card entry to the tournament.