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Nadal kicks off clay season with routine win over Bedene

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Nadal kicks off clay season with routine win over Bedene

Nadal kicks off clay season with routine win over Bedene

ERIC GAILLARD

REUTERS

The world number one, seeking an 11th Monte Carlo Masters title, eased towards a possible quarter-final against Novak Djokovic on Wednesday.

Rafael Nadal made a flying start to his bid for an 11th Monte Carlo Masters title, breezing to a 6-1 6-3 second-round victory over Aljaz Bedene.

Nadal has only ever lost four matches in this event, winning 10 of the 11 finals in which he has taken part.

And the world number one sent an ominous warning to his rivals for glory in the principality with a straightforward win on Wednesday as aims to emulate his remarkable set of triumphs during last season's European clay stretch when he lifted a 10th title in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Roland Garros while adding a fifth Madrid Masters title to his tally

After storming into a 3-0 lead in the opening set, another break of serve saw Nadal take the first in convincing fashion.

World number 58 Bedene put up more of a fight in the second, surviving a break point in his opening service game before impressively taking his next two to love.

But the break finally arrived for Nadal in the seventh game of the set and, despite falling 30-0 down on his own serve in the next, the Spaniard held before wrapping up the win with his fourth match point.

Nadal will face Russia's Karen Khachanov in the next round, ahead of a potential quarter-final clash with Novak Djokovic.

Djokovic, ranked 13 after coming back from elbow surgery last year, produced another promising performance to beat a battling Borna Coric in straight sets but spurned nine match points before eventually sealing victory.

The former world number one said he was playing without pain for the first time in two years after thrashing Dusan Lajovic in the first round on Monday.

That triumph was the 12-time grand slam champion's first since the Australian Open in January and he followed it up with a 7-6 (7-2) 7-5 triumph over Coric to set up a clash with Dominic Thiem.

Djokovic, who recruited former coach Marian Vajda last week, looked sharp with stoic defence and his forehand firing on Court Rainier III, and kept his composure even as Coric kept the contest alive by repeatedly saving match points.

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