Rafael Nadal shook off any scuttle of struggle this clay season by pounding good friend Juan Monaco 6-1, 6-0 in the second round today at the Madrid Masters 1000. Nadal, the tournament defending champion, needed just 69 minutes to advances.
“I think I moved better and played well, better than I normally play on the clay,” said Nadal. “I was dominating over the points and playing very well. I think I’ve done positive things.”
Nadal, who lost in the quarterfinals in both events last month, moves on to face Jarkko Nieminen tomorrow in the third round.
“It’s obviously the biggest challenge you can get – playing the World No. 1 and best player ever on clay,” said Nieminen who’s 0-7 against his fellow lefty. “I’ve played [Nadal] many times. It’s nothing new. It’s another new great challenge and I’m looking forward to it.”
Nadal’s potential quarterfinal opponent, Tomas Berdych, also advance dismissing, once again, Kevin Anderson. Berdych and Anderson have incredibly met 11 times since the start of 2012 with the Czech winning all of them.
“There was also the aspect of the many matches I’ve played with Kevin and all of them went my way,” Berdych said. “It’s always something that I can build on. I served well, played solid. I think we have similar games, but I do it a little bit better and that’s the reason. I can always find something extra. It’s also probably a mental thing as well now.”
Next for Berdych is Grigor Dimitrov. The Bulgarian who turns 23 in a few days edged the already-23 Marius Copil in a thrilling final set breaker between two young talents.
“Marius deserved to win, but I came through on a few big points and that was the biggest difference,” said Dimitrov of the Romanian who showcased a lethal one-handed backhand. “I feel positive having a match like that. I suffered the entire match but I came through. Mentally, I was good. That was my only weapon today.”
Other winners were Ernests Gulbis, John Isner, Marin Cilic and Andy Murray who began his clay season with an impressive 6-1, 1-6, 6-4 win over Nicolas Almagro. After, Murray talked about the recent death of his countrywoman Elena Baltacha.
“It’s been a tough ten days or so,” Murray said. “I kind of kind of had an idea what was going on with Elena because my mom is obviously very close with her and her husband.”
In the women’s draw, Serena Williams romped while Aga Radwanska needed three to beat Svetlana Kuznetsova. And Roberta Vinci upset former No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki.
On tap Thursday is a good one between Li Na and Sloane Stephens in a first meeting. Serena will face Spanish hope Carlo Suarez Navarro and Maria Sharapova and Sam Stosur collide. The marquee men’s match features Isner against favorite David Ferrer.
THURSDAY MADRID SCHEDULE
MANOLO SANTANA start 11:00 am
WTA –  S Stephens (USA) vs  N Li (CHN)
WTA –  S Williams (USA) vs  C Suarez Navarro (ESP)
Not Before 3:15 pm
ATP –  R Nadal (ESP) vs J Nieminen (FIN)
ATP – [Q] S Giraldo (COL) vs  A Murray (GBR)
Not Before 8:00 pm
WTA –  S Halep (ROU) vs  S Lisicki (GER)
Not Before 9:30 pm
ATP –  D Ferrer (ESP) vs  J Isner (USA)
ARANTXA SANCHEZ VICARIO start 12:00 noon
WTA – L Safarova (CZE) vs  P Kvitova (CZE)
Not Before 2:00 pm
ATP –  G Dimitrov (BUL) vs  T Berdych (CZE)
Not Before 3:00 pm
WTA –  M Sharapova (RUS) vs S Stosur (AUS)
WTA –  A Ivanovic (SRB) vs A Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) or  J Jankovic (SRB)
ATP – F Lopez (ESP) vs [Q] D Thiem (AUT)
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