Former world No. 1 Rafael Nadal will begin his clay court campaign on Tuesday afternoon in Rio de Janeiro when he meets Thomaz Bellucci in the main attraction on Centre Court. This marks the fourth time that these two competitors will meet on the professional tour, with Nadal holding an undefeated 3-0 head to head record against the local talent.
The world No. 4 has had a scrutinized start to his 2015 season. He began with an opening round loss to Michael Berrer in Doha before he moved to the Australian Open several weeks later. He reached the quarter-final round in Melbourne before losing to Tomas Berdych in straight sets. Now, he will move over to South America, where he will face a new adversary in the form of extreme heat.
“I think this heat would affect anybody,” Nadal said. “It’s very difficult with these conditions. The conditions are extreme, with high humidity on top of that. If it doesn’t cool off, I’ll suffer and try to survive any way I can.”
The Spaniard also explained that he is no longer dealing with injuries and is confident about his performances on the red dust.
“I don’t know if I’m ready to win here or not,” he said. “I’m going to try to be ready for Tuesday and be competitive, and then we’ll see what’s going on. It’s my first tournament on clay after a long time, and always you need time to adapt.”
Although he is coming off a first round exit in Sao Paulo, Thomaz Bellucci had a strong showing in Quito the prior week, where he reached the semi-final before losing to Victor Estrella Burgos.
This marks the fourth time that these two competitors will meet on the professional tour, with Nadal leading the series 3-0. All three of their previous encounters took place in Grand Slam events, which means this will be their first best-of-three match. Given that Bellucci has never taken a set off Nadal, he will be hard-pressed to defeat the King of Clay on Tuesday.
Prediction: Rafael Nadal in Straight Sets