Two matches into the 2010 ATP tennis clay season and Rafael Nadal has surrendered just two games. TWO! Today, the five-time Monte Carlo champ was just moments away from his first career double bagel before his German victim Michael Berrer managed a game. Nadal still romped 6-0, 6-1 to up his win streak in the rich man’s playground to 29 straight.
“I played better than yesterday because I played higher, I played close to the lines, and my feeling is I had more control on the ball,” said Nadal following his second straight rout.
But easy street is about to end for Nadal who’ll face former King of Clay and two-time Monte Carlo champ Juan Carlos Ferrero in one of two key early-season clay tests tomorrow – the other pits Novak Djokovic against David Nalbandian.
Ferrero toughed out a three setter beating JW Tsonga 7-5 in the third. The former No. 1 has been playing really good tennis this season and he’s also got a rare clay win over Rafa that coming in their last meeting in 2008 Rome when Nadal was battling some foot issues.
“Win one more point than him,” said Ferrero on how to beat Nadal. “I will try to play very aggressive with my forehand to his backhand, and then I will try to not do a lot of mistakes because he [gets] to all the balls. I know the way to fight.”
All told, a record five Spaniards are into the quarterfinals. Nadal and Ferrero are joined by David Ferrer, Fernando Verdasco and Alberto Montanes.
Ferrer earned his quarterfinal berth after trouncing Ivan Ljubicic. He’ll now face Andy Murray’s conqueror Phil Kohlschreiber. Verdasco needed three sets to subdue the hot Tomas Berdych and the win put him against Montanes, a 6-4, 6-4 upset victor over Marin Cilic.
As for the lone Spain-less match, it’s a good one with Djokovic and Nalbandian. I thought today was a big statement win for Novak by beating an in-form Stan Wawrinka 6-4, 6-4. He struggled early but eventually got it going, and that’s a good sign. For me this was a “hump” match and he got it.
Nalbandian also was sharp in a 6-3, 6-4 win over Tommy Robredo, so we should see some good tennis between the two tomorrow.
If I had to pick, I think Novak has too much for Nalbandian right now and too much to prove after a poor March. Djokovic has won two of three meetings and this will be their first in two years and first on clay.
As for the other matches, I think Nadal, Verdasco and Ferrer also get through.
COURT CENTRAL start 10:30 am
 D Ferrer (ESP) vs P Kohlschreiber (GER)
 J Ferrero (ESP) vs  R Nadal (ESP)
 N Djokovic (SRB) vs D Nalbandian (ARG)
A Montanes (ESP) vs  F Verdasco (ESP)
 D Nestor (CAN) / N Zimonjic (SRB) vs  M Knowles (BAH) / B Soares (BRA)
COURT DES PRINCES start 1:00 pm
 W Moodie (RSA) / D Norman (BEL) vs  L Kubot (POL) / O Marach (AUT)
 M Bhupathi (IND) / M Mirnyi (BLR) vs  B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA)
 S Aspelin (SWE) / P Hanley (AUS) vs D Ferrer (ESP) / M Lopez (ESP)
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