Rafael Nadal survived an early scare and successfully began his bid for an eighth French Open title by rallying past Daniel Brands of Germany, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4, 6-3.

Nadal, who had lost only 14 sets in 53 previous matches at Roland Garros, fell behind when he was broken in the ninth game and was on the verge of digging a deeper hole on Monday. He trailed 3-0 in the tiebreaker, then summoned his best shot-making to salvage the set and soon was in control.

The capacity crowd on centre court sensed a possible upset and began rooting for Brands, but he gave Nadal an opening in the tiebreaker, blowing an easy backhand approach to make it 3-all.

From there the match quickly turned. On set point Nadal stretched to crack a backhand return into the corner for a winner, then spun and threw a celebratory punch toward his box.

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