Rafael Nadal avoids upset at French Open

Tennis

(CNN) — Rafael Nadal avoided the upset bug at the French Open — and that was wholly predictable.

Only once in nine previous editions of the clay-court grand slam has the Spaniard tasted defeat and the eight-time champion moved into the third round in Paris on Thursday by beating promising Austrian Dominic Thiem.

Thiem has scored wins over grand slam winners Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka in 2014, with his ranking climbing more than 200 spots in the past 12 months to a career-high 57th.

But world No. 1 Nadal swept past the 20-year-old — who shares a coach with flamboyant Latvian Ernests Gulbis — 6-2 6-2 6-3 as the sun briefly shone in the French capital.

Nadal fended off a break point in the opening game, then cruised for the rest of the first two sets before reversing a 3-1 deficit in the third.

“He’s a future star, 100 %,” Nadal told the crowd. “The level of his ball is so high. He has everything to become a big champion.

“Today I played a solid match. I know Dominic is a dangerous opponent so I came on court knowing that if I wasn’t playing well, I’m going to be in trouble.”

Nadal was back on the main Philippe Chatrier stadium, too, after playing his opener on the secondary Suzanne Lenglen court, a scheduling decision world No. 11 John Isner called “bizarre.”

“It’s my favorite court,” Nadal said of the center court.

Even though he was expected to overcome Thiem, Nadal must have been slightly relieved. Besides Thiem potentially posing a threat, several big names have exited the tournament already.

They include women’s No. 1 and defending champion, Serena Williams, second-seed Li Na and Wawrinka — the man Nadal lost to in the Australian Open final.

Elsewhere, 2013 finalist David Ferrer, rejuvenated former French Open semifinalist Jelena Jankovic and Sloane Stephens — the highest-ranked U.S. player in the women’s draw after Williams’ exit — all advanced in straight sets.

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