Rafael Nadal began his bid for a fifth straight title at the Barcelona Open by beating Frederico Gil of Portugal 6-2, 6-2 in the second round on Wednesday.
Following a first-round bye, top-ranked Nadal broke Gil twice in each set but the qualifier made him work hard.
“I have to play better than I did today,” Nadal said. “I have to play well. Otherwise, it is going to be complicated.”
Nadal has lost only one of his 23 matches at Real Club de Tenis Barcelona. He’s also on a 22-match winning streak on clay.
Trying to become the first player to win the Barcelona Open five straight times, Nadal will next play Christophe Rochus of Belgium, who defeated Richard Gasquet of France 6-1, 6-7 (2), 6-3.
Nadal beat Rochus at this year’s Australian Open.
Four other Spaniards reached the third round.
No. 2-seeded Fernando Verdasco beat qualifier Nicolas Lapentti of Ecuador 7-5, 6-3, No. 6 Tommy Robredo downed Gaston Gaudio of Argentina 7-6 (6), 6-1, No. 10 Nicolas Almagro took more than two hours to overcome Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina 3-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3, and No. 16 Feliciano Lopez also rallied past countryman Santiago Ventura 2-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Gaudio, a former Barcelona champion entered with a wild card, fought back from two breaks and 5-2 down to force a tiebreaker but he eventually faded against Robredo.
Robredo was the last player to win Barcelona before Nadal. He will next face Igor Andreev of Russia.
Also, third-seeded Nikolay Davydenko beat Arnaud Clement of France 7-6 (2), 6-2, seventh-seeded David Nalbandian topped Igor Kunitsyn of Russia 7-5, 6-4, and eighth-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka dispatched Mikhail Youzhny of Russia, 7-5, 6-1.
Other winners included Tomas Berdych and Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic, Fernando Gonzalez of Chile, Potito Starace of Italy and Juan Monaco of Argentina.
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