BARCELONA: Rafael Nadal avenged his shock defeat to Nicolas Almagro at last year’s Barcelona Open to move into the third round in the Catalan capital with a 6-3, 6-1 win on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila).
Almagro’s sole victory in 13 meetings with the 14-time Grand Slam champion in last year’s quarterfinals ended Nadal’s incredible 41-match winning streak in Barcelona.
However, the out-of-form Almagro, who has slipped to 123 in the world, was swept aside as Nadal won 10 of the last 11 games to comfortably book his place in the next round.
“Nico is a danger because of the potential he has. At the start he served very well and won a lot of points on the second stroke,” said Nadal, who was cheered on by Barcelona striker Neymar fresh after his two goals against Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday.
“It was difficult, so I decided to step back a meter and put more balls in play and, bar the final game, I controlled the match.
“I committed very few errors and I hadn’t forgotten that he beat me last year.”
Nadal will face Fabio Fognini, who has already beaten Nadal on clay this year in Rio de Janeiro, in the last 16 on Thursday after the Italian came from a set down to beat 17-year-old Russian Andrey Rublev 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.
David Ferrer remained on course for a potential semifinals meeting with Nadal as the world number eight was too strong for Alberto Montanes 6-2, 6-3.
Victory also ended an unwanted losing run for Ferrer in Barcelona after crashing out in his first match in the past two years.
“After losing two years in a row in the first round I had to play my best tennis. I am happy about my debut, about the way I played from the baseline.”
However, US Open champion Marin Cilic’s disappointing season continued as he was dumped out by 34-year-old Dominican Victor Estrella Burgos 6-4, 6-4.
Cilic’s start to the year was hampered by injury as he missed the Australian Open, but he has won just two matches in three tournaments since his return in Indian Wells last month.
The Croatian’s normally reliant serve let him down as the world number 53 broke four times in 10 Cilic service games to seal a place in the last 16 against Martin Klizan.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was another seed to fall as the Frenchman was beaten in straight sets 6-4, 6-2 by Spain’s Marcel Granollers.
Australia’s Nick Kyrgios’s poor record outside the Grand Slams continued as the Australian Open and Wimbledon quarterfinalist lost against fellow 19-year-old Elias Ymer of Sweden 2-6, 7-5, 7-6 (9/7).
Santiago Giraldo set up a third-round meeting with top seed and defending champion Kei Nishikori with a 6-3 3-6, 6-1 win over Portugal’s Joao Sousa.