Nadal fights to finish off persistent Bolelli
Rafael Nadal encountered a challenge as he commenced his French Open defence with a tricky straight-sets win over Simone Bolelli.
Rafael Nadal saw off four set points in a third-set tie-break as he demonstrated extreme patience to beat Simone Bolelli 6-4 6-3 7-6 (11-9) in a rain-delayed French Open first-round tie.
The eventual scoreline made the victory look easier than it was as the reigning champion muscled his way through dogged resistance in a match that was halted by inclement weather on Monday.
Bolelli, who led the third 3-0 when his momentum was stalled, was broken in his first service game upon the resumption but continued to play with the freedom of a man afforded a lucky loser spot by Alexandr Dolgopolov's withdrawal.
The Italian had chances to take the match into a fourth - none more so than in the tie-break - but Nadal, who failed to drop a set throughout his charge to the 2017 crown, held firm, keeping the pressure on until Bolelli netted a routine forehand on match point.
The world number 129 had earlier spurned a look at a break-back in the sixth game and his hopes faded further when he failed to convert from 0-40 up in Nadal's next service game.
But he refused to afford the clay-court master a simple passage into round two, pushing the match into a tie-break that he should have claimed.
A superb drop volley provided Bolelli with three set points and, after Nadal retrieved each of them, the Italian was made to pay for a further failure to convert, wilting on the third match point to become the top seed's 80th victim at Roland Garros.
Nadal's bid for an 11th title in Paris next sees him meet Guido Pella, who beat Joao Sousa 6-2 6-3 6-4.
Nadal  bt Bolelli 6-4 6-3 7-6 (11-9)
Nadal – 30/25
Bolelli – 44/58
Nadal – 2/3
Bolelli – 2/1
BREAK POINTS WON
Nadal – 4/10
Bolelli – 2/7
FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE
Nadal – 57
Bolelli – 76
PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE
Nadal – 74/58
Bolelli – 56/64
Nadal – 119
Bolelli – 97