After all the assorted commitments of last week it was finally time to get down to business.
Rafa's first opponent was Denis Istomin.
Rafa won in straight sets, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2. It was a steady performance. Or, as Rafa put it in his post-match press conference, "Normal. That's the real thing. Not very good; not very bad."
In the second round he played Andreas Seppi.
This match was played at night. When the rain came halfway through the second set it became the first match to be played under a closed roof. Rafa took the first set with ease, struggled through the second and then regained control to get a 6-0, 7-5, 6-1 win.
As far as the roof goes, Rafa said, "Is great to be the first player to play with the roof closed, on the competition, because I was the first player to hit in the center court with the roof closed. Just happy. The difference is not many. No big difference. With the roof open there is no wind at all, so is not a big change. And the roof is so high you don't feel that you are closed, no? That's my feeling. Today I didn't feel the change."
His third round opponent was Andrey Kusnetzov.
The score was an exact copy of his first round - 6-1, 6-4, 6-2.
This time last year Rafa had already bowed out of the tournament in the third round. This year he's into the fourth round having lost fewer games (20) at this point than in any of his previous appearances.
However, as Rafa put it in his press conference, "That's only fact, no? That don't going to make the big impact on what's coming, no?"
Sadly, that proved to be all too true in the next round when Lucas Pouille joined the list of players who can only come up with the match of their life when Rafa is on the other side of the net. Rafa fought to the end but ultimately lost, 1-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, 6-7(6). (Pouille lost in the next round, naturally.)
As always, Rafa summed it up very succinctly, "He played well. That's it. You know, I didn't play bad, but I didn't play enough well. He played well. That's it."
Siempre contigo, Rafa