Nadal takes first winning step in Barcelona

May 1st, 2008 - 1:21 pm ICT by admin  

Barcelona, May 1 (DPA) Rafael Nadal began this week’s quest to retain another clay title with the three-time French Open champion reaching the third round of the Barcelona Open 6-4, 6-2 over Italian Potito Starace. After the win Wednesday night, Nadal was looking ahead to a meeting with compatriot and good friend Feliciano Lopez, a winner over Spaniard Alberto Martin 3-6, 6-2, 6-4, American James Blake was pondering over another clay defeat.

The fourth seed Blake, who only received a wild card invitation Friday after withdrawals from Nikolay Davydenko and the retiring Gustavo Kuerten, went down 6-1, 6-4 in his second-round opening match to Denis Gremelmayr.

Blake was playing for the first time in his career on Spanish clay after previously competing indoors in Madrid. “I wish we were playing in a third set right now, but I ran out of time,” said Blake.

A fortnight ago, Blake was stunned in the final at Houston by 237th-ranked Spaniard Marcel Granollers-Pujol.

“I don’t want to think too much about this match,” said the American, only the second from his nation to enter an ATP pre-Roland Garros event over the past three weeks.

“I was starting to get used to conditions in the second set.”

Nadal is worried that he might not be able to duplicate a miracle run on clay achieved last season, culminated by a trophy hat-trick at Roland Garros.

But the world number two completed his first step last weekend, lifting a fourth straight trophy at Monte Carlo and again defeating Federer.

The Spaniard said that this year’s Olympic-impacted schedule may just be too much. “It will be impossible for me to keep a top level over four straight weeks. You can’t focus all the time, every week.”

He said that his only chance to make it four straight in Barcelona will be through the support of crowds who treat him like a rock star.

Top seed Nadal, hoping to create more tennis history at the Real club, spent 68 minutes in ousting 45th-ranked Starace.

Despite any doubts, Nadal still rules the clay, having won 99 of his last 100 matches on the surface since taking an initial Monte Carlo title three years ago.

Nadal now stands on an ATP-best 28 match wins this season, one better than Davydenko, resting this week.

Other Spanish seeds moving through included number two David Ferrer, who extinguished the hopes of number 237 minnow Gabriel Trujillo-Soler 6-1, 6-1.

Nadal’s Olympic doubles partner Tommy Robredo, seeded sixth, advanced over Robin Haase 6-2, 6-4. Tenth seed Nicolas Almagro beat Italian Filippo Volandri 6-4, 7-6 (7-5).

There was an upset for Spain’s Albert Montanes, who lost the first set before overhauling Croatia’s eighth-seeded Ivo Karlovic 6-7 (7/9), 6-3, 7-5.

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