The King of Clay, Rafael Nadal, sent a clear message that he’s still the man to beat today in Monte Carlo. Making his European clay debut, Nadal destroyed countryman Roberto Bautista Agut 6-1, 6-1.
The 11-time Monte Carlo champion improves to 69-4 at the event. This was his first match since withdrawing from Indian Wells with a knee issue, and today the knee was fine.
“This is just the first match. Been a very positive start,” said Nadal. “The result says that. And the feeling on court, too… I just started well. It’s the first match in almost a year on this surface. But, of course, a start like this helps.”
Going back to last year, Nadal has now won his last 13 on his favorite surface and 16 straight in Monte Carlo. Up next will be former Top 5 Grigor Dimitrov who he leads 11-1.
“Tomorrow is another good test against Grigor, so let’s see,” said Nadal. “I need to play well again.”
In a battle of young stars, Alexander Zverev picked apart Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-1, 6-4. Zverev, who made the semifinals of Monte Carlo last year, broke the Canadian teen six times en route to the win. He’ll now face Fabio Fognini who advanced when Gilles Simon withdrew with a back injury.
2018 finalist Kei Nishikori’s slump continued as the Japanese was bounced by Pierre-Hugues Herbert 7-5, 6-4. Nishikori has now lost his last three matches and five of his last seven. He’s just 1-3 in three Masters events so far this season.
Australian Open semifinalist Stefanos Tsitsipas eased past Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3, 7-5. Tomorrow, he’ll have a interesting test against fellow youngster Daniil Medvedev who he has never beaten in three tries.
“[Daniil] has a different game than other players. He has a good serve… it can get really aggressive and frustrating to return,” said Tsitsipas.
“He’s maybe a baseliner who likes to play a bit behind the baseline. He’s a good defender for his height,” he added. “I just have to play every single shot that comes to me as if there is no other player on the other side of the court.”
Tomorrow also sees the return of Novak Djokovic who will take on the surprising Taylor Fritz. Dominic Thiem, who also won today, will be in action as well against Dusan Lajovic.
THURSDAY MONTE CARLO SCHEDULE
COURT RAINIER III start 11:00 am
 Daniil Medvedev (RUS) vs  Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE)
 Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs Taylor Fritz (USA)
Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) vs  Rafael Nadal (ESP)
 Fabio Fognini (ITA) vs  Alexander Zverev (GER)
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