Now, though, the ball continued to land, and despite the Wimbledon crowd willing on its long-term hero, his own shots began to fly wide.
Then Nadal seemed to find a new level and Cerundolo had nothing in the tank to respond with.
Landing the winning shot with a roar and punch of the air, Nadal thanked the crowd he had clearly been leaning on.
He sets up a second round clash with Ricardis Barankis, a 32-year-old Lithuanian ranked 106 in the world.
And with Marin Cilic and Matteo Berrettini stripped from his half of the draw, Nadal may feels he needs an easier run than usual if he is to his bid to claim a calendar grand slam.
But with Roger Federer absent and Novak Djokovic out of sorts, the combination of Spanish delight and SW19 adoration might just be enough for him to go all the way.