Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray advance

Updated: April 13, 2011, 3:02 PM ET
Associated Press

MONACO -- Rafael Nadal began his bid for a seventh straight Monte Carlo Masters title with a comfortable 6-2, 6-2 win over Jarkko Nieminen on Wednesday.

The top-ranked Spaniard, who next will play Richard Gasquet, did not face a single break point against the Finn and extended his winning record at the clay-court tournament to 33 matches.

"Today was a positive start," Nadal said. "I think I played better than what I practiced the last days, so that's always positive."

Gasquet defeated Guillermo Garcia-Lopez of Spain 6-2, 6-1.

Nadal is 7-0 against Gasquet and beat him in the 2005 semifinals en route to his first Monte Carlo title.

"Playing him on clay is very tough. He dropped very few sets here," Gasquet said. "What I must do is stay relaxed and try to play without hesitation and not be afraid to go for my shots. This is all very well, but when you're on the court, you're confronted with reality."

Third-seeded Andy Murray defeated Radek Stepanek 6-1, 6-4, winning his first match since the semifinals of the Australian Open.

The Scot had failed to win a set since losing to Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open final, going out early at Rotterdam, Indian Wells and Miami.

"I played great, dominated the match from the second, third game. [I] was a wee bit tentative towards the end, which I think is probably natural," Murray said. "I hit the ball really well, made him do a lot of running, was able to dictate a lot of points with my forehand -- especially from the first and second shot in the rally."

Murray next plays 16th-seeded Gilles Simon of France, who defeated Albert Montanes of Spain 6-3, 6-4.

Also, fourth-seeded David Ferrer of Spain cruised past Feliciano Lopez 6-2, 6-0, and No. 8 Gael Monfils of France defeated Daniel Gimeno-Traver of Spain 7-5, 6-2.

Ferrer, who next meets big-serving Milos Raonic of Canada, broke Lopez five times. Lopez also had six double-faults.

Seventh-seeded Jurgen Melzer of Austria, No. 9 Nicolas Almagro of Spain, No. 11 Viktor Troicki of Serbia and No. 15 Marin Cilic of Croatia also advanced to the third round.

Melzer defeated Robin Haase of the Netherlands 3-6, 6-1, 6-2; Almagro beat Maximo Gonzalez of Argentina 6-7 (6), 7-5, 7-6 (10); and Troicki topped Fabio Fognini of Italy 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.

Cilic was leading Pere Riba 5-2 when the Spaniard retired. Cilic next takes on 16-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer.

Nadal remains the big favorite to clinch his 44th career title, even though he says he needs a bit more time to get his feeling back on clay. He's coming off recent hard-court losses to Djokovic in the finals in Indian Wells and Miami.

"I think I needed a few more days," Nadal said. "[It] is just the first match. It wasn't bad. I have to play a little bit more aggressive with the backhand."

Nadal remains unbeaten on clay since losing to Robin Soderling in the fourth round of the French Open two years ago. Nadal was undefeated on clay last year, winning two other Masters at Rome and Madrid and his fifth French Open.


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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