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MONTE CARLO (Reuters) - Spaniard Rafael Nadal launched his bid for a ninth consecutive crown in Monte Carlo in style by overpowering Australian Marinko Matosevic 6-1 6-2 in the second round on Wednesday.
Third-seed Nadal recorded his 43rd victory in a row at the claycourt event where he is back in action following a month-long break to continue healing the knee that sidelined him for seven months after last year's Wimbledon.
The world number five, who has made a successful return to competition by winning three out of his first four tournaments including the Indian Wells Masters Series last month, looked in great shape on the picturesque Centre Court that has been his stage since he first won the tournament in 2005.
He was loudly cheered by the packed crowd and was never seriously threatened by the Australian who built a 2-0 lead in the second set before Nadal overwhelmed his opponent to set up a meeting with 16th seed Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany.
World number one Novak Djokovic was facing a tricky second-round match against Mikhail Youzhny of Russia while second seed Andy Murray was to begin his claycourt season against Frenchman Edouard Roger-Vasselin later in the day.
In earlier action beside the Mediterranean, fourth seed Tomas Berdych had to recover from a break down in each set to move past Spaniard Marcel Granollers 7-5 6-4.
Canadian 22-year-old Milos Raonic, seeded 12, failed to set up a big-serving clash with Juan Martin Del Potro when he was beaten by Finland's Jarkko Nieminen 6-3 1-6 7-6.
(Reporting by Gregory Blachier; Editing by Martyn Herman)