Rafael Nadal on Wednesday produced a clay-court master class to pick apart fellow Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut 6-1, 6-1 as the world No. 2 began his Monte Carlo Masters title defense in stunning fashion.
Playing his first match since injuring his knee at Indian Wells last month, Nadal showed no signs of rust as he raced to a 5-0 lead in the first set on Court Rainier III.
Bautista Agut did get on the board, but Nadal clinched the opening set and put his opponent under further pressure with another break of serve at the start of the second.
There was no stopping Nadal, who regularly moved Bautista Agut out of position, opening the court up effortlessly with powerful forehand combinations.
After saving three break points at 2-1, Nadal displayed his clinical side at the net to secure a 4-1 advantage and went on to claim the win.
The 11-time Monte Carlo champion extended his winning streak to 16 matches at the tournament and is to face Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov in the third round.
“It was a great start, it’s good to be back here,” 17-time Grand Slam winner Nadal said. “I’ve had some great moments on this court, I really enjoy playing here.”
“It’s not easy to come back from injury, I had to do a lot of mental work as well to be prepared. I tried to play solid, dominate with my forehand when I had the chance,” he added.
German hotshot Alexander Zverev showed signs of a return to his explosive best in a 6-1, 6-4 win over Canadian teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Third seed Zverev, who lives in Monte Carlo, reached the semi-finals of his “home” event a year ago, but has endured a difficult season this year.
After finishing runner-up to Australian Nick Kyrgios in Acapulco, Zverev had early exits at Indian Wells, Miami and Marrakech.
“This is the first time this season I’ve felt really healthy,” the 21-year-old said. “I’ve been training well, but haven’t been able to take that into matches.”
“I live just 500m from here, I’m comfortable on this court. I’m starting to feel better about my game. I’m really ready for the clay season,” he added.
Dominic Thiem, last year’s French Open runner-up, won 20 of his 23 first-serve points in a commanding display to beat Slovakian Martin Klizan 6-1, 6-4.
Greek sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas also progressed, defeating Kazakh Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3, 7-5.
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