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ACAPULCO, Mexico – Former world number one Rafael Nadal began his quest for a 38th clay-court title, dominating Diego Sebastian Schwartzman 6-2, 6-2
in his opening-round match at the ATP Tour's Acapulco event Tuesday.
Nadal, who recently returned to the court after a seven-month injury layoff, needed just 68 minutes to oust Schwartzman, who at 20 was the youngest player in the men's draw.
The 11-time Grand Slam champion Nadal advances to the second round where he will face his second consecutive Argentinean qualifier, 27-year-old Martin Alund.
Nadal improved to 34-1 on clay against players ranked outside the top 100 as he makes his first appearance in Acapulco since claiming the title eight years ago. Schwartzman is ranked 157th in the world.
Nadal was greeted by loud cheers from the sold-out crowd. “Playing in a stadium like this, with all seats occupied is an honour,” he said. “I will fight even harder to move forward.”
Nadal was off for seven months with persistent knee problems and has been testing his fitness in clay tournaments this month before he switches to hardcourt events.
He finished with two aces and one double fault and won 70
percent of his first-serve points.
Schwartzman, who was facing a top 10 player for the first time in his career, won just 28 percent of his second-serve points and had his serve broken five times.
Nadal won his 37th clay-court title earlier this month in Sao Paulo, Brazil, beating David Nalbandian in the final.
On Tuesday, a Spanish newspaper reported that world number five Nadal would miss the upcoming ATP World Tour Masters Series events in Indian Wells, California and Miami, Florida.
Nadal's camp and tournament organisers dismissed the report.
Nadal is also expected to play a Masters Series event in Monaco in April and compete in Madrid and Rome before the French Open begins at Roland Garros in Paris on May 26. – Sapa-AFP