After 14 years, Nadal still superior

Published by AP

Rafael Nadal serves during his straight-sets win over Albert Montanes at the Barcelona Open; Getty Images

Nearly 14 years after their first meeting as professionals, Rafael Nadal maintained order by beating Spanish countryman Albert Montanes 6-2 6-2 to make the Barcelona Open quarterfinals on Thursday.

Nadal has yet to drop a set in six tour-level and challenger matches against Montanes, with their first meeting coming back in 2002 at a low-tier event in Barcelona.

The countrymen exchanged early breaks but the top-seeded Nadal soon took control. Nadal broke serve five times and had 24 winners against only nine for Montanes, a wildcard.

“I had a great forehand today and the conditions were much better than yesterday,” Nadal said.

Coming off his first title of the year at the Monte Carlo Masters last week, Nadal will next face Fabio Fognini of Italy, who defeated eighth-seeded Viktor Troicki of Serbia 6-3 6-2.

Fognini eliminated Nadal in the third round of Barcelona last year, among his three wins over Nadal in 2015, including in a five-set match in the third round at the US Open.

Nadal is trying to win his ninth title at the Barcelona Open, and first since 2013. He is on a seven-match winning streak.

Second-seeded Kei Nishikori, the two-time defending champion, advanced to the quarterfinals by beating Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-3 7-5.

Nishikori lost serve at 5-4 in the second set, but broke back in the following game to eventually clinch the third-round victory.

He will play either Russian qualifier Karen Khachanov or Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov.

Also, Malek Jaziri converted only two of 12 break points but was able to defeat Alexander Zverev of Germany 7-6(5) 6-4 to set up a quarterfinal against sixth-seeded Benoit Paire of France, who eliminated ninth-seeded Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay 6-2 6-4.

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