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Tennis: No trouble for Nadal in Monaco opener

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Rafael Nadal made a predictably successful return to his beloved clay on Wednesday, the Spanish third seed starting his quest for a ninth straight Monte Carlo Masters title with a 6-1, 6-2 defeat of Marinko Matosevic.

Nadal was totally in his comfort zone on another sunny, warm day on the Mediterranean, demolishing the Australian in 62 minutes.

Nadal won the first seven points of the match, with Matosevic earning only two points in the first four games.

The Spaniard ended with 15 winners, eight unforced errors and conversions on six of nine break point chances in the crowd-pleasing rout.

Nadal's quick win marked a successful return to action after resting for three weeks in the wake of his Indian Wells title of last month.

The 26-year-old is planning his schedule more carefully after missing seven months of play in 2012-2013 due to his chronic faulty knees.

But he will have little rest in the run-up to Roland Garros, with entries set for Barcelona plus the Madrid and Rome Masters over the next four weeks.

Nadal, playing Monte Carlo for the 10th time, improved his phenomenal record here to 45-1, with his only loss coming to Guillermo Coria in 2003 as a teenager.

The Spaniard owns the best career match record on clay in the post-1968 Open era with a 267-20 record and 38 clay titles from 43 finals on the surface.

Matosevic had few chances in his first career match against a top five opponent.

Nadal next plays German Philipp Kohlschreiber.

Elsewhere in the second round, Czech fourth seed Tomas Berdych began his clay season with a defeat of Spain's Marcel Granollers 7-5, 6-4.

"Always the first matches are kind of tough. If you get an opponent like Marcel, it is even tougher," said Berdych, who recovered from a break down in each set.

"In the end, I felt quite good. I was trying to find the really clay court rhythm in the beginning. I lost my serve and gave him some chances, but in the end I get myself back focused for the points, the important ones.

"I was able to hold my serve, take my chances and finish it in straight sets."

Croatian ninth seed Marin Cilic put out South African Kevin Anderson 6-2, 6-3 while veteran Finn Jarkko Nieminen upset Canadian 12th seed Milos Raonic 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (7/3). German Florian Mayer defeated Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.

Top seed Novak Djokovic and number two Andy Murray were both making their clay season starts later in the second round after byes awarded to the leading eight seeds.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130417/tennis-no-trouble-nadal-monaco-opener