TORONTO – Jesse Levine proved to be quite an opening test for Wimbledon winner Rafael Nadal.
While Nadal continued his march to the Rogers Cup final by besting his American opponent in straight sets (6-4, 6-2), Jesse Levine threatened the heavily-favored Spaniard with a powerful first serve and quick rushes to the net.
On a day that was heavily-delayed due to rainfall, Nadal seemed sluggish at the beginning of the match but seemed to round out his form as the game went on.
At a post-game press conference, Nadal admitted that it wasn’t one of his best efforts.
“Today wasn’t my best match,” he said. “The first match is always difficult.”
Nadal blamed the lack of practice time he had after Wimbledon as being part of the reason for his rust, but that he eventually managed to find his form.
In the third game of the first set, Levine managed to secure three break chances and immediately capitalized to take a 3-1 lead in the set. By holding serve in the fourth game, the Ottawa-born talent seemed poised to secure the biggest upset in the tournament.
It didn’t happen.
Game seven proved to be pivotal and while Nadal’s sloppy start seemed to give him all the momentum he would need to carry serve, experience clearly came into play as Levine made a costly unforced error. Instead of taking a 5-2 set lead, a critical double-fault allowed Nadal to get his break back, making the score 4-3.
From there, Nadal took over and did not lose another game in the first set, taking it 6-4 and pulverizing his opponent in the second set (6-2).
At a post-game press conference, Levine said that while he had a “good start,” he was affected by who he was playing.
“The nerves got a little bit of me there,” he said. “But I felt like I fought hard and played well and, you know, came up with big shots at certain times.”
Levine said that playing someone with the type of game that Nadal has inherently had an affect on his game.
“You get that feeling playing against him that you got to do something bigger than normal,” he said. “You know, it’s not the right feeling to have because he is human.”
Levine continued by saying that he should have just stuck to the basics of his game instead of thinking too much about his next shot.
“You know, you try and come up with shots that are just out of your mind, or out of your shorts, I don’t know how to say it. There’s no need for that. You just got to try and stay solid and keep playing solid tennis.”
Nadal moves on to face Igor Andreev in the third round, and admitted his game needed to improve.
“I have to move better than today, that’s for sure,” he said. “Play some balls with more topspin and other ones flat. That’s going to be important. But especially playing with more intensity.”