Back on his favourite surface, Rafael Nadal showed no lingering effects of a recent injury as he breezed into the third round of the Monte Carlo Masters on Wednesday with a 6-1, 6-1 win against Roberto Bautista Agut.
Nadal was making his season debut on clay and playing his first match since suffering a knee injury at Indian Wells a month ago, but the defending champion looked sharp from the start and secured an early break of serve for 2-0.
Aside from having to save five break points across two games – at 0-40 down in the fourth game and at 15-40 in the sixth – Nadal was otherwise untroubled by his Spanish compatriot. The 17-time Grand Slam champion converted his first match point when he met his opponent’s strong forehand with a crisp volley at the net.
Nadal is looking to win the clay-court tournament for a record-extending 12th time and next plays Grigor Dimitrov, whom he has beaten 11 times in 12 matches. One of Nadal’s wins against the unseeded Bulgarian was in last year’s semi-final.
Earlier, German Alexander Zverev defeated Montreal’s Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-1, 6-4.
The third-seeded Zverev made 75 per cent of his first serves, compared with 52 per cent for Auger-Aliassime. Zverev also held a 6-2 advantage in service breaks.
No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas, No. 10 Daniil Medvedev, and No. 13 Fabio Fognini also advanced to the third round Wednesday. But No. 5 Kei Nishikori, who lost to Nadal in last year’s final, was beaten by Pierre-Hugues Herbert 7-5, 6-4.
Tsitsipas beat Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3, 7-5 and next faces Medvedev. The Russian beat Radu Albot 6-1, 6-2, while Fognini had a walkover after Gilles Simon pulled out with a back injury and next takes on Zverev.
There were also second-round wins for Dimitrov, Taylor Fritz and Cameron Norrie.
Fritz won 6-4, 6-2 against Diego Schwartzman and the 21-year-old American next plays top-ranked Novak Djokovic.
Norrie beat Marton Fucsovics 7-6 (3), 6-3 and Dimitrov won 7-6 (2), 6-4 against Jan-Lennard Struff.