BARCELONA: Defending champion Kei Nishikori cruised into the third round of the Barcelona Open with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Russian Teymuraz Gabashvili on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila).
The Japanese top seed was making his season debut on clay but was largely untroubled by the world number 85 as he broke early in each set and faced just one break point on his own serve before sealing victory.
Nishikori will face either Portugal’s Joao Sousa or 15th seed Santiago Giraldo in the last 16 on Thursday.
Second seed Rafael Nadal will begin his quest for a ninth title in Barcelona in a rematch of his quarter-final defeat to Nicolas Almagro last year on Wednesday.
Almagro only had to play three games to book his place in round three as Paolo Lorenzi retired when trailing 3-0 in the first set.
Nadal’s defeat to Almagro last year ended the 14-time Grand Slam champion’s 41-match winning streak at the tournament stretching back to 2003.
“He is a great player and always a dangerous rival,” Nadal said on Monday.
“I have to play my own game and make it difficult for Nico.”
Seventh seed Roberto Bautista Agut and fellow Spaniard Tommy Robredo also booked their places in round three with straight sets victories over Thomaz Belluci and Mikhail Kukushkin respectively.