PHOTOS: Rafael Nadal overcomes Alexei Popyrin challenge In Roland Garros opener

13-time champion Rafael Nadal started his 2021 Roland Garros campaign with a straight sets win. The third seed moved into the second round of the French Open on Tuesday, requiring two hours and 23 minutes to beat Australian Alexei Popyrin 6-3, 6-2, 7-6(3). Our champ is now 101-2 on the Parisian clay.

After the match, Rafa said:

“He was hitting bombs. He is young and the speed of his ball is incredible. He is a fast runner and every time he went for the highest power possible. So it was a tough match. I found a way to win the third set, I don’t know how, but I’m happy.”

His next opponent will be Frenchman Richard Gasquet. The pair first played one another when they were children. As professionals, Rafa leads 16-0.


  1. Mimi re: your 9:35–Have been trying to find it myself. Feel certain that I had seen it once. I know that she usually stays in the background while he interacts with his fans. Hope I didn’t confuse it with the time he was on with Regis but can’t find that one either. Will let you know if/when I come across it.

  2. Mimi @4:48

    Sorry I missed that Wimbledon.

    I went back to rewatch David Letterman’s interview with Rafa. I saw it live and again on video and it still cracks me up. On YouTube “Rafael Nadal on David Letterman.”

    • I remember that interview. Rafa was charming, that smile……🤩
      I am going to watch it again now. Thanks Margo.🙏😘

      • Just watched it for the third time. Thanks for the reminder. Saw a photo of Maria entering the building with him before the interview but unfortunately we didn’t get to see her in the audience. She might have been sitting back stage.

  3. I thought the PTPA was finally laid to rest; apparently not. I wonder if these unnamed “…very wealthy and influential people” approached him or vice versatile.

    Luigi Gatto
    Djokovic on the PTPA: “We’ve had so far 80% of the support from the 500 players on the men’s side. We have a couple of very wealthy and influential people from United States that are supporting us financially.”

    I have been waiting to see who would be voted in on the ATP players’ council but elections have yet to be announced.

    It looks as if he is trying to create his own ATP-ish organization. And what is the ATP doing about the players who have joined the PTPA?

  4. Vamos Rafa!!!

    Our champ knows how he won the 3rd set. He played steadily and Popyrin got overexcited and lost it. (Rafa calls it Fear of Winning, but he’s too polite to say that was Popper’s problem today). Even if Popper had won the 3rd set there was no way he could maintain that level long enough to win the match. Sooner or later they will leave the “zone”. Popper crashed out of it early.

    • Ramara, Popyrin would surely agree with you. The kid choked. I believe he was concentrating on taking a set from Rafa more than concentrating on the tennis. He knew he couldn’t win the match but winning a set from the GOAT [his words] would have been incredible.

      He loved Rafa’s comments about him and vowed to work even harder. He said if the best player in the world said those things about him it has to be true.

      Like other young players before him, most recently Sinner, he is left feeling disappointed in his performance against Rafa. He promised not to dwell on his loss and planned to call his girlfriend and play some games.

  5. Well done Rafa, good start and got cams through a tough third set when you showed your resilience and mental strength. This guy was so cocky saying ” I have the game to beat Nadal”!! He should learn that respect and a low key approach is best.
    Rafa and Richie ( as Rafa calls him) know each other since they were 12. Richie beat Rafa but never repeated that victory since. All good wishes Champions. 🇪🇸🌟👏🍀

    • Cocky no. Making a joke, yes. Maybe you didn’t get to read his entire statement. What is your source please?

      Here’s what he actually said,

      Luigi Gatto
      May 29
      Alexei Popyrin on facing Nadal: “I have the game to beat him. Tell Rafa that I’ve won the French Open juniors and he’d be, like, ‘oh, yeah?’ He’d swat that like a fly!”

    • Popyrin:
      “I think it (Roland Garros) always will be (a special place),” Popyrin said. “Winning the juniors there has given me confidence ever since. It was only the juniors, though. Doesn’t really stand up against Rafa and 13 titles. Tell Rafa that I’ve won the French juniors and he’d be, like, ‘oh, yeah?’ He’d swat that like a fly!”

  6. Well don Rafa vamosssssss champ this year is yours love from your fans 🌍🌍🌍🌍🌍💪👍❤️🎾

  7. Good to see you dig in when faced with speed/ power. Tennis at its best combines both of those with CRAFT without which one can not win. You have the craft, a real tennis champion. A fine start toward the finish hoped for!!!!r

    Vamos, man!!

  8. Congratulations Champion. Lovely to see you on your own turf. The King of Clay you are ready for Richard Gasquet. Buena Suerte fir this match

  9. Great tennis Rafa….

    Next up is Richard Gasquet who knew from the draw, if he won today he would have to face Rafa next..
    Considering they have had 16 – H2H matches to which Rafa has won 16 and Gasquet has won 0 ,
    I would venture to say Gasquet might have a sinking feeling going on.. 🙂

    Can’t wait till Rafa comes on court again on Thursday…

    VAMOS RAFA!!!!

  10. Well done champ!! 😀👍🏻👏🏻💪🏻🙌🏻👌🏻. Congratulations, always hard to beat players with powerful serves. Keep going on your way ‘King of Clay’ 🙏🏻😌
    Vamosssssss Rafa!! 🐂⚡🌀💥🌊🔥🔥

  11. Congrats on win, Rafael Nadal. BTW, neon green outshines the pink/lavender combo. Stay healthy.
    Stay confident.👏💪👍🤛🎾🍀❤️

  12. Good start against a tough opponent. All the best for the next round. Vamos Rafa❤️

  13. Great job winning in straight sets Rafa👏🤗
    Good luck vs R. Gasquet next🍀❤️

    • Rafa’s last meeting with former World #7 Gasquet was in the 2018 FO where Rafa won 6-3, 6-2, 6-2. Their total meetings break down to 7 on clay, 8 on hard, and1 at a RR.

      Rafa will have a doubly Happy Birthday on Thursday.

      • I think you are right Margo.👍 I can’t believe Rafa is almost 35 years old……
        All the BEST to Rafa always, especially on his birthday!🥰

      • 🤫Hush Mimi, the older he gets so so do we all.😂 Having said that, your comment reminds me of the first time I ever saw him —- racing back and forth at lightning speed on the clay —- dressed in his then signature outfit of cut-off pants and sleeveless top. I had never seen such speed nor such an outfit on a tennis player. At that moment he gained another fan.

      • You are absolutely right Margo.😉

        He gained another one later on grass at Wimbledon 2008.🤛

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