Nadal makes impressive start to clay season

Published by AP/Tennismash

WINNING START: Rafael Nadal dropped only two games in his opening match in Monte Carlo; Getty Images
Rafael Nadal drops only two games as he begins his clay court season with an impressive win over compatriot Roberto Bautista Agut in Monte Carlo

Back on his favourite surface, Rafael Nadal showed no lingering effects of a recent injury as he breezed into the third round of the ATP Masters 1000 tournament in Monte Carlo with a 6-1 6-1 win against world No.22 Roberto Bautista Agut.

Nadal was making his season debut on clay and playing his first match since withdrawing with a knee injury at Indian Wells one month ago, but the defending champion looked sharp from the start and secured an early break of serve for 2-0.

Aside from having to save five break points across two games – at 0-40 down in the fourth game and at 15-40 in the sixth- Nadal was otherwise untroubled by his fellow Spaniard.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion converted his first match point when he met his opponent’s strong forehand with a crisp volley at the net.

Nadal is looking to win the clay-court tournament for a record-extending 12th time and next plays Grigor Dimitrov, who he has beaten 11 times in 12 matches.

“(It has) been a very positive start,” Nadal told ATPTour.com. “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.”

FEATURE: Can Rafael Nadal return to No.1 this clay season?

Third-seeded Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev also advanced to the third round.

Zverev won 6-1 6-4 against Felix Auger-Aliassime, breaking the 18-year-old Canadian’s serve six times. Tsitsipas beat Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3 7-5 and next faces Medvedev, who has lost only five games in his opening two matches.

Fourth seed Dominic Thiem posted a 6-1 6-4 win over Slovak Martin Klizan to set up a third round clash with Serbian Dusan Lajovic, who stunned No.10 seed David Goffin 6-3 6-4.

Japanese world No.6 Kei Nishikori, who lost to Nadal in last year’s final, was beaten by Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert 7-5 6-4.

There were also second-round wins for Taylor Fritz and Cameron Norrie.

Fabio Fognini, the No.13 seed, received a walkover from Frenchman Gilles Simon, who was unable to take to the court due to a back injury.

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