Rafael Nadal began his quest for a 10th French Open title Tuesday, with a straight 3-set victory against 18- year old Frenchman Quentin Halys.
The nine-time Spanish champion of the Open, who is currently ranked sixth in the world, won 6-3 6-3 6-4 in 1 hour 50 minutes on the clay Court Philippe Chatrier in Paris, despite the fact that Halys had the audience on his side.
The former number one seed, who now has an impressive 67-1 record at Roland Garros, next faces either compatriot Nicolas Almagro or Ukraine's Alexandr Dolgopolov.
At the beginning of this season, he suffered a three set defeat to Michael Berrer in round one of the Qatar Open in January, causing the champion to go down the rank and end up the world seventh.
Despite his mediocre season start, many expect he could be set for a comeback as he is regarded as the “King of Clay,” referring to his awe-inspiring skills on the surface.
"When I've had some up and downs during the season, it's normal that can happen here," Nadal was quoted as saying by the BBC. "I am trying to avoid that. I am here to try to play good tennis and give myself a chance to play well and compete for everything ... My mentality and my goal is the same always."
If Nadal manages to win this year's French Open, he could become the first tennis player in history to win the same Grand Slam 10 times.
However, last year’s runner-up, Novak Djokovic, could give Nadal a run for his money at the tournament. The Spaniard is in the same half of the draw as top seed Djokovic, who on Tuesday beat Jarkko Nieminen 6-2 7-5 6-2.
"I always feel a lot of emotion when I get back on this court," said Djokovic, who won the Australian Open at the beginning of February. "This year I'm playing very well and I hope I will get the confidence I have had since the beginning of the year."