Rafael Nadal returned to Monte Carlo and picked up right where he has left off the last eight years by winning and winning easily. Playing in his first match in nearly a month, Nadal cruised to his 43rd straight win in Monte Carlo easily dispatching Australian Marinko Matosevic 6-1, 6-2.
“I played well at the beginning with the right intensity, with no mistakes,” said Nadal. “I was trying to do the right things to find a good feeling on the ball, to find the right rhythm. I played to the right places, and that gave me confidence.”
Nadal was actually behind 2-0 in the second set but closed winning the last six games.
“I didn’t play my best game, the first game of the second, and he played well, so he had the break. And after that he played well for a while in the next games. Then he had good chances, two break points for [a] 3 0 [lead]. It was not an easy moment. I played one good point and I was able to come back.”
Next for Nadal, who has won 15 straight matches, is a date with Philipp Kolhscreiber. Nadal has won eight of nine over the German veteran but lost in their most recent clash at Halle last summer.
Top seed and world No. 1 Novak Djokovic made his 2013 clay opener a tough one. Djokovic advanced but barely, beating Mikhail Youzhny 4-6, 6-1, 6-4. Djokovic admitted that the sluggish start was due to the right ankle which is still not 100%.
“My movements on the clay are still not at the maximum and not where I want them to be,” Djokovic said. “But as the days go by, I think I’m going to slowly get into it and hopefully I can elevate the level of performance in the next match. Today was a big test, over two hours. I had a great quality opponent.”
Tomorrow, Djokovic gets Juan Monaco. The Argentine advanced in three over a surly Ernests Gulbis who received a game penalty in the third set. Gulbis has previously received a warning for smashing a racquet early in the second set. Then in the third set he received a point penalty when he kicked a ball out of the court which was followed shortly thereafter by him flinging his racquet at the umpire chair which drew the game penalty giving Monaco a 3-0 lead in the final set.
Djokovic has won all six career meetings with Monaco but the two have never played in… Monaco.
Andy Murray, who has never been to a clay final begin his season on the dirt with a convincing 6-1, 6-2 win over Edouard Roger-Vasselin. Murray now runs into the Stan Wawrinka in the first real showdown of the European clay season. Wawrinka, a semifinalist in Casablanca last week, destroyed Spanish veteran Albert Montanes 6-1, 6-1. Murray and Wawrinka have played 12 time before and the Scot has won eight of them and three straight. But on clay Wawrinka has won both in straight sets, though they have met on the dirt since 2008 Rome.
“It will be a tough match,” said Murray. “Good test for me. He’s played some good tennis this year. He obviously enjoys the surface, has had some good results on it in the past. I’ll need to play well tomorrow to win that match.”
Also on Wednesday, Tomas Berdych and Marin Cilic were winners while Milos Raonic was upset by Jarkko Nieminen in a third set tiebreaker.
Jo-Wilfired Tsonga and Juan Martin Del Potro also return to the courts on a very busy Thursday.
COURT CENTRAL start 10:30 am
 J Tsonga (FRA) vs J Melzer (AUT)
 P Kohlschreiber (GER) vs  R Nadal (ESP)
 S Wawrinka (SUI) vs  A Murray (GBR)
 N Djokovic (SRB) vs  J Monaco (ARG)
COURT DES PRINCES start 10:30 am
 T Berdych (CZE) vs F Fognini (ITA)
G Dimitrov (BUL) vs F Mayer (GER)
 M Cilic (CRO) vs  R Gasquet (FRA)
J Nieminen (FIN) vs  [WC] J Del Potro (ARG)
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