Rafael Nadal wins in straight sets as he launches French Open defence

Nadal beat Australia’s Alex Popyrin 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (3)Ashleigh Barty battles injury in her three-set win

Eight months ago in the soggy, cold surrounds of a rare autumn Roland Garros, there were ample doubts circling Rafael Nadal – the loudest from himself – as he began his title defence in conditions that blunted his heavy topspin. It went quite well in the end: Nadal finished the fortnight with just one set lost, and winning the first in the final, against Novak Djokovic, 6-0.

There will be no such questions this year. Even while seeded third and the possibility of a semi-final with Djokovic looming, Nadal is the heavy favourite until further notice. On Tuesday Nadal started his campaign for an absurd 14th title by defeating Alexei Popyrin 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (3) in the sun to reach the second round with his 101st win at Roland Garros, to just two losses, clinching his 31st consecutive victory.

Related: Petra Kvitova out of French Open after injuring ankle during press duties

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