PARIS - Rafael Nadal hopped, spun and threw an overhand punch toward his friends and family, stirring memories of past celebrations on his favorite stage.
After more than 90 minutes of tense tennis, Nadal had finally won a set, leaving him only 20 sets from another French Open championship.
The Spaniard survived an early scare Monday and successfully began his bid for an eighth title at Roland Garros 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 the French Open, fell behind when he was broken in the ninth game and was on the verge of digging a deeper hole in the red clay. He trailed, 3-0, in the tiebreaker, then summoned his best shot-making to salvage the set and soon was in control against the dangerous Brands.
"He was playing unbelievable," Nadal said. "He was trying to hit every ball as hard as he can. Sometimes you feel you are not hitting a bad shot, and every time comes back a bomb. So I am very happy to be through, seriously."