ATP Monte Carlo: Rafael Nadal opens title defense in a strong fashion

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ATP Monte Carlo: Rafael Nadal opens title defense in a strong fashion

World number 1 and the 10-time Monte Carlo champion Rafael Nadal has made a perfect start in his opening clay court tournament of the season, beating Aljaz Bedene 6-1 6-3 in an hour and 18 minutes for his seventh win of the season and the 65th in the Principality. Nadal and Bedene have played in the exact same round here two years ago and Rafa scored a 6-3 6-3 win, losing two games less today after saving both break points he faced and taking rival's serve on four occasions from eight break points he created.

Rafa lost 13 points in eight service games and he grabbed almost 50% of the points on the return to keep the strings of the match firmly in his hands. The Spaniard had 16 winners and 15 unforced errors while Bedene followed him in the winners department but only after making 30 unforced errors, unable to stay in touch with Rafa in the longer points.

Aljaz wasted two game points in game two and Nadal broke with a great forehand cross court winner to settle into a nice rhythm right from the start. Bedene had a chance to take the break back in game five but Rafa saved both break points he faced and he fired a forehand winner in the following game to move 5-1 in front.

The first set was firmly in Nadal's hands after a forehand drop shot winner in 38 minutes, looking for more of the same in set number two. Aljaz saved a break point at the start of the second set and he managed to stay on the same level with Rafa in the next five games, reaching 3-3 and waiting for any chance on the return.

It didn't come, though, and Nadal shifted into a higher gear to break his rival at 15 in game seven and move 4-3 ahead. Serving to stay in the match at 3-5, the Slovenian saved three match points but he netted a forehand on the fourth to send Nadal into the last 16 for the 15th consecutive time! Richard Gasquet came to Monte Carlo after a solid run in Marrakech last week and he has continued in the same style here, toppling the 10th seed Diego Schwartzman 6-2 6-1 in just 70 minutes for his 17th win at this tournament where he made a debut in 2002! These two have met for the second time and the former semi-finalist controlled the scoreboard all the time, losing 12 points in eight service games and stealing 53% of the return points to break Diego four times from eight opportunities.

Richard had 14 winners and 14 unforced errors while Schwartzman stood on just eight winners and 27 unforced errors, spraying mistakes from both wings and losing ground in both the shortest and more dynamic baseline rallies.

The Frenchman served at only 45% in the first set but no one could notice that as he lost just four points in four service games. He broke Diego at love in game four to open up a 3-1 lead and the set was over after just 29 minutes as the Argentine hit two double faults in a row to lose serve in game eight as well.

Gasquet saved a break point at the start of the second set after another routine forehand missed from his rival and he gained a 3-1 lead after a poor volley from Diego. Schwartzman was nowhere near his best and he gave serve away once again in game six, spraying a forehand wide and allowing Gasquet to serve for the triumph in the game that followed.

It was all over when Schwartzman sent a backhand beyond the baseline in game seven and Richard was very pleased with his win and for not spending too much time on the court. Second round results:


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