WATCH—Highlights from Nadal's win over Paire in Toronto:
TORONTO—Dressed in Canada's national colors, Rafael Nadal defeated Benoit Paire on Wednesday night, 6-2, 6-3. Though the scoreline appears routine, the two exchanged a whopping nine breaks of serve in the match.
"I [didn't] play a singles match on hard court since Australia. So [it] is a long time," Nadal said. "And that's it. You need time."
A limp forehand error into the net from the Frenchman gave Nadal an early break in the first set for 2-0, which was quickly followed by a racquet bash from Paire. His racquet would fly again when he went down 5-2, before Nadal broke for the set.
The 29-year-old Paire was looking to save face after a blowup last week in Washington awarded him the honor (or dishonor) of greatest flipout in recent ATP history. He smashed multiple racquets, tanked on match point and earned a whopping $16,500 fine.
Still, you can't say Paire doesn't have his moments of brilliance. He was ranked inside the Top 20 just two years ago and took out Novak Djokovic at the Miami Open this year. The world No. 55 possesses a wide array of deft touch shots and big serves, as well as a potent backhand.
The second set began with Paire once again dropping serve give Nadal a 2-0 lead. That's when things got weird. Nadal lost his serve for the first time, which was followed by five consecutive traded breaks of serve, including Nadal dropping his at love for 4-3.
"But I feel that of course I was not at my 100 percent today," Nadal said. "But at the same time it's true that it's impossible, no? After a while, you need matches. And when I say I don't feel myself 100 percent, I say that I didn't play fantastic match, but I didn't play a bad match, no?"
The Spaniard then seemingly realized it was time to wrap things up because he won the next two games proficiently.
"I think I played a solid match," Nadal said. "It's true that with myself in the second set I had some troubles, but my return worked well. And it was not about the serve. It was more about the mistakes from the baseline in my opinion."
Despite the odd break exchange, for the most part, Nadal looked refreshed. The 32-year-old took a much-needed break after another long clay-court run of dominance and a heartbreaking fifth-set Wimbledon semifinal loss to Novak Djokovic. Don’t feel bad for Nadal, though—he retreated to the Balearic Islands in Spain, where he partook in his favorite off-court hobby of yachting.
"You need some period off after probably the toughest period of the year for me, mentally and physically," Nadal said.
After going wild with tournaments in April and May, he played only the French Open and Wimbledon until coming to Toronto. He even made time for a Shakira concert on Tuesday, and got a late start, not playing his first match until Wednesday when others, including Djokovic, had already wrapped up their second.
"These tournaments are so hard. Since the beginning you play against the Top 50 players. So it's a big test from the real first round," Nadal said. "So that's all. You need to be ready. And today I found a way to be through, and let's try again tomorrow."
Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev headline the Rogers Cup in Toronto. Watch live coverage from four courts on Tennis Channel Plus beginning Monday, August 6th at 11:00 A.M.