Umpire row mars Nadal's French Open advance
RAFAEL Nadal enjoyed a winning start to his campaign to claim a 10th French Open title on Tuesday, before admitting he had requested the removal of a respected umpire in a row over his shorts.
Nine-time French Open champion Nadal easily reached the second round with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 win over world No. 296 Quentin Halys of France.
But large parts of his post-match press conference were consumed by the reasons why he had demanded that Carlos Bernardes be banned from officiating at his matches.
The 28-year-old Spaniard admitted that he had fallen out with Bernardes after the official gave him a code violation for exceeding the 25 seconds between points at a tournament earlier this year.
Although Nadal is a notoriously slow player and often falls foul of the regulations, he insisted his treatment by Bernardes in the semi-final in Rio de Janeiro was unfair.
"It was my request, but it's nothing personal against him 100 per cent. I respect him like an umpire, I respect him like a person, and I consider him a good person more than that," said Nadal.
"For me, he was not respectful with me in Rio de Janeiro. That was my feeling when I put my shorts the other way.
"He wants to put warnings four times, that's fine. But if I put my shorts the other way and I ask him if I can change my shorts, I can put my shorts the right way, and his answer is, 'Yes but you will receive a time warning.' For me, that's not fair."
Nadal went on to lose the match to Fabio Fognini, one of five defeats he has suffered on the surface this year.
Nadal, seeded a humble sixth this year at the French Open - his lowest for a decade - needed just one hour and 50 minutes to record his 67th career win at Roland Garros on Tuesday.
The Spaniard, who is seeded to meet world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals, came into the tournament without a European clay court title for the first time since 2005 and with many in the sport writing him off as a spent force.
But in a cheeky riposte to his critics, the 14-time major winner played with the number "9" stitched into the heels of his tennis shoes to remind people of his astonishing record at the tournament.
Nadal was not troubled by 18-year-old Halys, who was making his Grand Slam debut and playing just his second tour-level match.
Halys did retrieve an early break in the sixth game of the first set, before Nadal reasserted his dominance to take the opener 6-3.
And that was about as good as it got for the Frenchman, who ended the tie on the Philippe Chatrier Court after being broken five times and making 52 unforced errors.
He edged ahead again in the second set for a decisive 4-2 lead, while another break for 3-2 in the third proved enough.
Nadal goes on to face compatriot Nicolas Almagro for a place in the last 32.