Rafael Nadal of Spain returns the ball to Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia (not shown) during the Monte Carlo Masters in Monaco on Wednesday. (REUTERS: Eric Gaillard)
Claycourt machine Rafael Nadal recovered from a stuttering start to beat Russian qualifier Teymuraz Gabashvili 6-4 6-1 and reach the third round of the Monte Carlo Masters on Wednesday.
The world number one, whose eight-year reign in the principality ended last year, conceded an early break but eventually proved too much to handle for Gabashvili on centre court.
Nadal, who is on a 29-match winning streak on clay, fell 2-0 behind but the Spaniard leveled in the sixth game by breaking to love.
The contest effectively ended there as Gabashvili failed to keep pace with the powerful left-hander.
Eight-times French Open champion Nadal, who has a 49-2 record in Monte Carlo after losing to Serb Novak Djokovic in last year’s final, next faces Andreas Seppi of Italy.
“I think I started little bit slower. But is true that he was playing very, very aggressive, hitting very strong, with no mistakes,” Nadal said.
“Always the first match, the thing that you want at the beginning is get in rhythm, play some long points, find the feelings.”
Earlier, former world number one Roger Federer barely broke sweat as he breezed into the third round with a 6-1 6-2 thrashing of Czech Radek Stepanek.
The Swiss, who has a record 17 grand slam titles, will face another Czech, Lukas Rosol, after dismissing the experienced Stepanek in less than an hour on the Monte Carlo Country Club’s clay.
Fourth-seeded Federer, back in the principality for the first time since 2011, saved two break points and claimed his opponent’s serve four times in a quick master class.
“I had a good start to both sets, then I was solid on my own service games. The next thing you know, you’re in the lead and you can hit freely,” said Federer.
“It was clearly a good match to start my claycourt campaign.”
Earlier, eighth seed Milos Raonic of Canada was made to work to overcome South Korea’s Lu Yen-hsun 6-7(4) 6-2 6-1.
Swiss third seed and Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka produced an awe-inspiring display in a 6-0 6-2 drubbing of Croatian Marin Cilic.