Fri, Apr 27, 2012 - Page 19 News List

Rafael Nadal starts his Barcelona title defense with victory over Garcia-Lopez

AFP, BARCELONA, SPAIN

Rafael Nadal returns to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez during the Barcelona Open tennis tournament in Barcelona, Spain, on Wednesday.

Photo: AFP

Rafael Nadal began his title defense at the Barcelona Open on Wednesday with a 6-1, 6-2 defeat of compatriot Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, who had defeated the king of clay two years ago in Thailand.

Top seed Nadal, champion at the Real Club de Tenis in six of the past seven editions — he missed 2010 with knee trouble — claimed his 30th match victory in a row at his home event.

Nadal did not have it all his own way, with his 78th-ranked opponent winning only his second game of the match as he managed a break with Nadal leading a set and 4-0.

The top seed eventually finished the job with some slight difficulty after Garcia-Lopez saved a match point with a forehand in the final game before the end came after 81 minutes. Garcia-Lopez beat Nadal in Bangkok two years ago indoors and also put out tournament second seed Andy Murray in Indian Wells last month.

Nadal admitted his problem left knee was not perfect, but insisted it would not be a problem for him.

Top seed Nadal, whose victory was his 30th in a row at the clay event in the Catalan capital, told reporters he had felt a slight twinge of pain in his left knee, but remains unconcerned.

“It’s normal,” he said. “I had a few errors, but my backhand felt good the entire match. I was solid. Things went better than I would have thought, it was a good win.”

Nadal, the world No. 2, picked up where he had left off on his favorite surface last weekend when he won an historic eighth consecutive trophy in Monte Carlo, ending a seven-match loss streak to world No. 1 Novak Djokovic. Nadal was joined in the third round by friend and compatriot David Ferrer as the third seed — he has lost three Barcelona finals to Nadal — crushed Serbian wild card Filip Krajinovic 6-0, 6-3.

Ferrer said he was working through the physical problems that bothered him last week.

“I played pretty well, it was a relatively comfortable start,” the 30-year-old said.

“The second set was not as good as the first, but I kept my energy and speed. I had shoulder problems, but I had treatment here on Friday. But I still didn’t know last Sunday if I could play. I did recover, but I still need to rest to avoid problems,” said the steady player, who has been to the semi-finals or better for the past five years here.

Japan’s Kei Nishikori demonstrated his growing confidence on the clay with a battling 6-3, 4-6, 6-0 defeat of Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin, which took just under two hours.

The eighth seed from Tokyo has been playing his fourth clay event this season after competing in South America in February highlighted by a quarter-final in Argentina.

Nishikori has duplicated his third-round Barcelona showing from a year ago and next faces either Spain’s Albert Ramos or Frenchman Benoit Paire.

“It was an awful match,” Nishikori said. “It was very windy and we both made so many errors. After three or four balls, someone would make a mistake. It was my first match and I was a bit tight, he had already played a match. I really had to concentrate a lot, but I have to handle the conditions better. It was OK to win but it was a tough day for me.”

Canadian Milos Raonic, the No. 11, raced through the second set to beat Igor Andreev 6-4, 6-1 while South African 13th seed Kevin Anderson advanced over Federico Delbonis of Argentina 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/5).

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