MADRID (Reuters) - Rafa Nadal avoided a similar fate to beaten world number one Novak Djokovic when he dismissed French young gun Benoit Paire 6-3 6-4 to claim a place in the third round of the Madrid Open on Wednesday.
Serb Djokovic fell to another promising youngster, Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov, in the second round of the Masters event on Tuesday but Nadal showed why he has the best record on clay in the pro era with a clinical display.
The Spanish world number five, who has won four titles since his return from a seven-month injury layoff in February, delighted the home support at the Magic Box arena with some brilliant shot making.
He broke the 23-year-old Paire once in each set and will play Mikhail Youzhny for a place in the last eight after the unseeded Russian upset Nadal’s compatriot Nicolas Almagro, the 11th seed, 7-6 4-6 6-2.
“I am taking things day by day and I don’t know if I am in perfect shape or not,” Nadal, who could meet great rival Roger Federer in the semi-finals, said in an interview with Spanish television broadcaster La Sexta.
“The important thing is that I am here in Madrid competing again after seven months out injured,” added the 26-year-old.
Nadal is on course for a possible meeting with David Ferrer, another fellow countryman, in the last eight after the fourth seed beat Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan 7-5 6-2 in the second round.
Sixth-seeded Czech Tomas Berdych had to come back from a set down to get past Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz 6-7 6-3 6-2, while Japanese 14th seed Kei Nishikori ousted Viktor Troiki of Serbia 7-5 6-2.
In a match dubbed “the battle of the veteran Tommies”, 13th-seeded German Tommy Haas, 35, continued his winning run after his victory at the Munich event at the weekend with a 6-3 7-5 second-round success against 31-year-old Spaniard Tommy Robredo.
Editing by Pritha Sarkar and Alison Wildey