BARCELONA: Rafael Nadal continued his perfect start to the European clay-court season by easing past fellow Spaniard Albert Montanes 6-2, 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals of the Barcelona Open on Thursday (Friday in Manila).
Second seed and defending champion Kei Nishikori also secured his place in the last eight with a 6-3, 7-5 win over France’s Jeremy Chardy.
Nadal is looking to equal Argentine legend Guillermo Vilas’s record of 49 clay-court tournament wins and capture a ninth title in the Catalan capital having claimed the Monte Carlo Masters last week.
The 14-time Grand Slam champion has suffered shock defeats in Barcelona in the past two years, but looks back close to his best on his favored surface as he won eight of the last 10 games to take his career record over the 35-year-old Montanes to 4-0 in just over an hour on court.
Nadal was first on center court due to a reschedule caused by a morning rain delay, but was much more at ease with conditions having complained of the strong winds during his second-round win over Marcel Granollers on Wednesday.
“It was much nicer today. It was a strange day because it rained all morning but the truth is there is no comparison between today and yesterday,” said Nadal.
And the 29-year-old planned to make the most of an early finish with a mid-tournament trip to the cinema.
“I need to do my recovery work as it is the second tournament in a row, last week was a hard week with a lot of long matches and so I’ll rest and maybe even go to the cinema.”
Nadal will face a much tougher test in the quarterfinals on Friday against Italian 12th seed Fabio Fognini, who overcame Serbia’s Viktor Troicki 6-3, 6-2 to reach the last eight.
Fognini dumped Nadal out at the last 16 in Barcelona last year and also inflicted his first ever Grand Slam defeat after winning the first two sets at the US Open in September.
Nishikori extended his winning streak in Barcelona to 12 matches over Chardy despite a momentary blip as he was broken when serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set.
The Japanese world number six will face Alexandr Dolgopolov or Karen Khachanov in the quarterfinals.
“I have to prepare a little bit quicker than before because of the change in schedule,” said Nishikori.
“I felt good, but a little bit slower than yesterday.
“I practice a lot with Alex and we are good friends, it’s not easy to play against friends, but it will be a great match.”
France’s Benoit Paire overcame Pablo Cuevas 6-2, 6-4 to set up a quarterfinals with Tunisian Malek Jaznin, who beat German teenage sensation Alexander Zverev 7-6 (7/5), 6-4.