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By Julien Pretot
PARIS May 26 World No.1 Rafa Nadal started his French Open title defence in ruthless fashion, dismantling American Robby Ginepri 6-0 6-3 6-0 to reach the second round on Monday.
The eight-times champion from Spain wasted no time on a damp day in Paris to set up a meeting with rising Austrian Dominic Thiem who dismissed France's Paul-Henri Mathieu with ease.
Nadal used his whipping forehand to shake world number 279 Ginepri who needed a wildcard into the tournament.
Unlike last year when Nadal flirted with danger against Germany's Daniel Brands in the first round, he was a class apart from Ginepri.
The sun pierced the clouds midway through the third set as Nadal wasted two match points, ending the match on his third attempt when Ginepri's backhand sailed long.
Nadal will face far sterner tests in the coming days but after some surprise defeats in the build-up to the French Open he was happy to make such a fast start.
"I think I started a little bit better than last year, but still last year I arrived with a lot of victories on my shoulders, this year with a little bit less," he said.
"We'll see. The important thing is that I am in second round."
Ever the perfectionist on clay, Nadal added: "The result is not all that great, but I think I played well.
"Some balls I didn't play very well. I played well at the beginning of the match, then not so well."
After being blown away in the opening set Ginepri was actually in the contest at the beginning of the second set when he managed to hold off Nadal to 3-3.
The muscular Spaniard, who lost three matches on clay in the build-up to the French Open for the first time in his career, then hit the throttle to reel off nine games.
"A tough pill to swallow for sure," the 31-year-old Ginepri, who once rose to 15th in the world, told reporters.
"Always wanted to play him on clay and see how good he is. He showed me a lesson today. It was fun out there today, even though the scoreline didn't really reflect it."
While the defending champion at Wimbledon always plays his first match on Centre Court, there is no such tradition at the French Open and Nadal started his campaign on Suzanne Lenglen, the second biggest court.
He did not feel offended, however.
"It doesn't really matter a lot. Playing at Roland Garros is a pleasure for me, it is really an honour, and it is a special feeling," he said.
"So all the memories this place gives me are unforgettable and it doesn't matter if it's Chatrier or Lenglen or another court. Being around here is always going to be great." (Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Martyn Herman)