Nadal powers his way past Bellucci

LONDON -- Rafael Nadal smacked a double fault while serving at 5-2, 40-15 in the second set against Thomaz Bellucci in their first-round match at Wimbledon, whereupon a fan wailed, "Come on Rafa, we love you!" It was a measure of how desperately Nadal's fans would love to see the fallen "King of Clay," who is seeded just No. 10 here at Wimbledon, recapture the form that carried him to five finals and two titles here in years past.

He took a significant step toward that goal in his debut against Bellucci. These are the key elements and takeaways from Nadal's 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 win:

1. The forehand, so often absent during Nadal's struggles on Euroclay, was firing lethally. True, Nadal hit more unforced errors than winners in the match (23-21), but his forehand, which Nadal lost confidence in earlier this season, was struck cleanly and forcefully.

2. Bellucci is a talented left-hander with abundant skill and a dangerous serve, but once again his inconsistency proved his undoing. He converted his first serve under 50 percent of the time and was broken twice in each set. Bellucci hasn't made it out of the first round since 2010.

3. Nadal may be getting over his puzzling tendency to lose confidence, and the resulting failure to consolidate a lead. True, he squandered one of the two breaks he crafted in the first set. But after he survived that fight-back by Bellucci, Nadal broke early and late in the second and third sets.

4. Nadal is healthy and fresh at this Wimbledon, which hasn't always been the case. It was obvious in the way he moved. That's a great sign for him, especially for a player whose health has always come into question.

5. The Nadal backhand is an excellent tool on grass. Combined with his speed and movement it adds an extra dimension to his defense.