Barcelona – Rafael Nadal began his title defence at the Barcelona Open on Wednesday with a 6-1, 6-2 defeat of compatriot Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who had defeated the king of clay two years ago in Thailand.
Top seed Nadal, champion at the Real Club de Tenis in six of the last seven editions – he missed 2010 with knee trouble – claimed his 30th match victory in a row at his home event.
Nadal didn't have it all his own way, with his 78th-ranked opponent winning only his second game of the match as he managed a break with Nadal leading a set and 4-0.
The top seed eventually finished the job with some slight difficulty after Garcia-Lopez saved a match point with a forehand in the final game before the end came after 81 minutes.
Garcia-Lopez beat Nadal in Bangkok two years ago indoors and also put out tournament second seed Andy Murray in Indian Wells in March.
Nadal, the world No 2, picked up where he had left off on his favourite surface last weekend when he won an historic eighth consecutive trophy in Monte Carlo, ending a seven-match loss streak to world number one Novak Djokovic.
Nadal was joined in the third round by friend and compatriot David Ferrer as the third seed – he has lost three Barcelona finals to Nadal – crushed Serbian wild card Filip Krajinovic 6-0, 6-3.
Ferrer said he is working through the physical problems which bothered him last week.
“I played pretty well, it was a relatively comfortable start,” said the 30-year-old. “The second set was not as good as the first, but I kept my energy and speed.
“I had shoulder problems but I had treatment here on Friday. But I still didn't know last Sunday if I could play.
“I did recover but I still need to rest to avoid problems,” said the steady player who has been to the semi-finals or better for the past five years here.
Japan's Kei Nishikori demonstrated his growing confidence on the clay with a battling 6-3, 4-6, 6-0 defeat of Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin which took just under two hours.
The eighth seed from Tokyo has been playing his fourth clay event this season after competing in South America in February highlighted by a quarter-final in Argentina.
Nishikori has duplicated his third-round Barcelona showing from a year ago and next faces either Spain's Albert Ramos or Frenchman Benoit Paire.
“It was an awful match,” said Nishikori. “It was very windy and we both made so many errors. After three or four balls, someone would make a mistake.
“It was my first match and I was a bit tight, he had already played a match. I really had to concentrate a lot but I have to handle the conditions better.
“It was OK to win but it was a tough day for me.”
Canadian Milos Raonic, the number 11, raced through the second set to beat Igor Andreev 6-4, 6-1 while South African 13th seed Kevin Anderson advanced over Federico Delbonis of Argentina 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/5). – Sapa-AFP