Rafael Nadal eased into the third round of the Madrid Masters Wednesday after cruising to a 6-3, 6-4 win over flaky Frenchman Benoit Paire. Nadal improved to 27-2 on the season as he bids for a third title at the biggest event in his home country.
“That’s an important victory today,” said Nadal. “Each match in this kind of tournament is very demanding from the first round. He was a very uncomfortable opponent. He makes you play quite badly. He doesn’t give you any rhythm. He has one of the best backhands in the circuit, without any doubt.”
It was the second win over Paire, who was celebrating his 24th birthday, in as many tournaments for Nadal. And after Novak was stunned yesterday, Rafa was high alert.
“Talking about the Djokovic defeat, those things can happen,” Nadal said. “When you’re playing these kinds of tournaments, you’ve got the best players in the world. It happened. He was defeated.”
Next for Rafa is a date tomorrow with Russian Mikhail Youzhny who upset Nicolas Almagro 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-2.
Spanish No. 1 David Ferrer also debuted making quick work of Denis Istomin 7-5, 6-2. He’ll now face 35-year-old Tommy Haas.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Stanislas Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych who won his 400th career match were also winners. Tsonga beat Robin Haase in two breakers. The Dutchman Haase has unbelievably now lost his last 17 tiebreakers he’s played.
Big serving Kevin Anderson is next for Berdcyh. The South African took advantage of the altitude to oust Argentine Juan Monaco in a mild upset. Kei Nishikori also advanced, and he now meets defending champion Roger Federer on Thursday.
The 23-year-old Nishikori is looking to defeat a Top 5 opponent for the fourth time in his career (3-12) and follow in the footsteps of fellow youngster Grigor Dimitrov’s big upset Tuesday. But the Swiss beat Nishikori easily in their only meeting at 2011 Basel.
Dimitrov returns against the very hot-handed Wawrinka late in the day.
Andy Murray is also in action tomorrow, he’ll look to continue his mastery over Gilles Simon. Murray has won 10 straight against the Frenchman.
“It’s always difficult against him because there is a lot of long rallies,” Murray said. “He moves unbelievably well and makes very few unforced errors.
Every time you play against him there is a lot of long games and points, so you need to be prepared for that. I’ve played well against him in the past, so I hope I can do the same again on Thursday.”
In the women’s event, former No. 1 Victoria Azarenka suffered her first official loss of the season. After a spate of ill-timed withdrawals thus far in 2013, Azarenka was finally beaten on court today by Ekatarina Makarova 1-6, 6-2, 6-3.
“I have to give Ekaterina credit – she played really well,” said Azarenka who was playing her first event since Indian Wells. “I felt like I had a lot of chances; I just didn’t take them. I put myself down a little bit. Hey, I didn’t play for a long time. I haven’t lost a match for a long time. But this happens – it was going to happen sooner or later anyway.
“I just want to do better in the next tournament and kind of pick it up.”
The Belarussian wasn’t the only former Slam champion sent packing. Svetlana Kuznetsova and Petra Kvitova both fell out of the tournament to Angelique Kerber and Daniela Hantuchova, respectively.
In the late match, Ana Ivanovic dashed the hopes on young Laura Robson overcoming a 5-2 third set deficit to deny the Brit in a final set tiebreaker.
Tomorrow tournament favorites Maria Sharapova takes on Sabine Lisicki while Serena Williams meets Maria Kirilenko.
MANOLO SANTANA start 10:50 am
S Lisicki (GER) vs  M Sharapova (RUS) – WTA
 S Williams (USA) vs  M Kirilenko (RUS) – WTA
Not Before 3:15 PM
 R Nadal (ESP) vs M Youzhny (RUS) – ATP
 K Nishikori (JPN) vs  R Federer (SUI) – ATP
Not Before 8:00 PM
V Lepchenko (USA) vs  S Errani (ITA) – WTA
Not Before 9:30 PM
 A Murray (GBR) vs  G Simon (FRA) – ATP
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Nadal Wins 38th Straight In Monte Carlo, Ferrer Upset; Djokovic Faces Dolgopolov Thursday
Nadal v Isner Thursday; Serena Williams Loses Temper in Madrid
Nishikori v Roddick Tonight at ATP San Jose
Federer’s Slide Continues As Nadal Rolls On In Madrid; Murray Wins A Third Set Breaker