By Jill Neuharth
The universe must be back in alignment as the warmth returned today and the king of the clay retained his throne. Rafael Nadal, who made his 2008 Barcelona debut in front of a packed house, reminded us all why he is the master. Italian Potito Starace made a formidable adversary but was no match for the sly Nadal. Pretty-boy Poto soon learned the hard way not to ignore shots that are sure points with other players. By the time Potito woke up and smelled the espresso, it was all over for him. Nadal took Starace in straight sets 6-4, 6-2.
Keeping pace with the other top Spanish seeds, Tommy Robredo, Nicolas Almagro and David Ferrer made tapas of Robin Haase, Filippo Volandri and Gabriel Trujillo-Soler faster than you can say vino tinto por favor. Not included in this club is No. 5 seed Carlos Moya who was sent to the naughty corner by Latvian firecracker Ernests Gulbis. After losing the first set 4-6, Gulbis, twelve years Moya’s junior, pumped up his game and served the Spaniard up to win the next two sets 6-1 and 6-4.
The Moya defeat was not the biggest upset of the day by far. That fiasco occurred on the center court between No. 8-ranked James Blake and No. 83-ranked Dennis Gremelmayr. It took barely one hour for the fast-rising German to knock the sole remaining American out of the draw. Speaking of Yankees, the sole American doubles entry almost found themselves on the same plane home as Blake.
The Bryans faced off against Agustin Calleri and Potito Starace this afternoon, shortly after the sun went down and the air temperature dropped below freezing. It was the second time in as many days that the Argentine-Italian team faced a set of twins. One would almost think it happens every day in professional tennis. In perhaps the closest match all day, the Bryans narrowly escaped elimination. In fact if you read the scoreboard at the end of the match it appeared that only Mike Bryan remained as the other three names had been knocked clear off the board by direct hits. The presence of a noisy photographer, whose antics agitated Calleri, might have been just enough to ensure that the twinkies weren’t in line for check-in behind Mr. Blake. Final score: 5-7, 6-2 and 12-10.
Calleri’s countrymen Nalbandian and Ker finished off the Israeli dream team in doubles, while Chela and Canas both sailed easily into the third round. Joining them in round three is Spaniard Feliciano Lopez who in a heartbreaker of a game against countryman Alberto Martin, advanced in the series. Barcelonan native, Martin led after the first set but just wasn’t able to hold his serve in the second or the third, falling 6-3, 2-6 and 4-6 to Olivia Newton John hairdo-lookalike Lopez. With more than half the players headed for home, or at least to the players party tonight, action tomorrow will no doubt heat up, as hopefully will the mercury.
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