Rafael Nadal opens with victory in Madrid

Published by AP / Tennismash

Rafael Nadal dropped just six games in a second-round win over Felix Auger-Aliassime in the second round of the Madrid Masters (Getty Images)
Rafael Nadal gets his Madrid Masters campaign off to the perfect start to join fellow top-four seed Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Alexander Zverev in the third round.

There was no issues for five-time champion Rafael Nadal in the second round of the ATP Masters 1000 event on Wednesday.

Nadal was concerned going into his opening match in the Spanish capital after he lost practice time pre-tournament because of a stomach virus.

He didn’t know exactly how his body would react when he stepped onto the “Magic Box” centre court but despite the lack of preparation the second-seeded Spaniard cruised to a 6-3 6-3 win over Canadian teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime.

Nadal’s victory saw him join world No.1 Novak Djokovic, third seed Roger Federer and defending champion Alexander Zverev in the last 16.

Nine of the top 10 men’s seeds have advanced to the third round in Madrid, while the world’s top three women – Naomi Osaka, Petra Kvitova and Simona Halep – are all through to the quarterfinals of the women’s event.

“I’ve had this stomach virus for a few days, so this was a very important match for me,” Nadal said. “I’ve been improving but obviously the body remains a bit debilitated for a while.”

Nadal is trying to rebound from consecutive semifinal losses at Monte Carlo and Barcelona, which marked his worst start to the clay-court season in four years.

“The important thing is to win, you know, especially given what’s happened in the last three days,” he said.

He will next face American Frances Tiafoe, who defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4 3-6 6-3.

The last match of the day was also the last on tour for Spain’s David Ferrer, whose career came to an end with a 6-4 6-1 loss to Zverev.

The 37-year-old Ferrer finished his 20-year career with 27 singles titles, fifth-best among active players.

“I couldn’t keep playing at the level that I wanted, but I’m very happy and very proud of my career,” Ferrer said.

Juan Martin del Potro squandered a match point in a 6-3 2-6 7-5 loss to Laslo Djere in just the Argentine’s second tournament since he injured his knee in October.

Other second-round winners on Wednesday were Estoril Open champion Stefanos Tsitsipas, Kei Nishikori, Stan Wawrinka, Gael Monfils, Fernando Verdasco, Fabio Fognini, Jeremy Chardy and Hubert Hurkacz.

Halep lost just 12 points in a 44-minute 6-0 6-0 thumping of Viktoria Kuzmova, the most dominant win of her professional career.

The victory sets up an intriguing quarterfinal against Ash Barty, who stretched her winning streak to 11 following a three-set win over Yulia Putintseva.

Osaka will face Belinda Bencic – a rematch of their fourth-round meeting at Indian Wells, which Bencic won – after both won their third-round matches in Madrid in straight sets.

There will also be a rematch of last year’s Madrid final between Kvitova and Kiki Bertens, after they beat Caroline Garcia and Anastasija Sevastova, respectively, in straight sets.

“We saw it last year in the final here, how tough it was. We saw it in Stuttgart as well,” defending champion Kvitova told WTA Insider.

“I think we are meeting just too soon in the tournament, I think we should meet later, deeper in the tournament.”

Sloane Stephens, into her first Madrid quarterfinal, and Petra Martic will meet again after their tight third-round battle at the Australian Open, won by Stephens.

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