Nadal opens Rome Masters with easy win

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Rafael Nadal opened his bid for a fifth Rome Masters title with a quick 6-1, 6-3 win over Philipp Kohlschreiber on Wednesday.

Updated: April 29, 2010 18:11 IST
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Rafael Nadal opened his bid for a fifth Rome Masters title with a quick 6-1, 6-3 win over Philipp Kohlschreiber on Wednesday.

Having withdrawn from last week's Barcelona Open, Nadal appeared fresh and was able to dictate play with his usual combination of heavy topspin, few unforced errors and an array of baseline winners.

The third-ranked Spaniard improved to 6-0 in his career against his 29th-ranked German opponent.

"It wasn't my best match but I did well," Nadal said. "I played safe and I played focused all the time. Philipp made more mistakes than usual."

Nadal has won this clay-court tournament in four of the past five years and is the overwhelming favorite for another victory after top-ranked Roger Federer was stunned by Ernests Gulbis on Tuesday.

Federer earned some consolation on Wednesday when he teamed in doubles with fellow Swiss player Yves Allegro to beat sixth-seeded Simon Aspelin of Sweden and Paul Hanley of Australia 4-6, 6-3, 10-8 tiebreak.

Nadal faced only one break point _ at 2-3 in the second set _ and saved it when Kohlschreiber missed an easy backhand wide. Nadal then broke in the next game, producing a high passing shot that Kohlschreiber could barely get his racket on, and cruised the rest of the way.

The new 10,500-seat stadium at the Foro Italico was nearly full for the match, but Nadal gave the spectators only 1 hour, 10 minutes of action. He led 18-15 in winners and committed only 11 unforced errors to Kohlschreiber's 28.

Nadal's dominance was similar to the display he put on in winning the Monte Carlo Masters 10 days ago _ when he dropped only 14 games in five matches and routed Fernando Verdasco 6-0, 6-1 in the final.

With Nadal absent, Verdasco won his fifth career title in Barcelona last week and he edged Italian wild card Simone Bolelli 7-6 (11), 6-3 to open his campaign here.

Also, 2008 runner-up Stanislas Wawrinka eliminated 10th-seeded Tomas Berdych 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (6) and 42nd-ranked Guillermo Garcia-Lopez beat former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt 6-2, 6-3.

Hewitt is still regaining his form after undergoing hip surgery on Jan. 29, and ground out a three-set win over ninth-seeded Mikhail Youzhny on Tuesday.

In other second-round matches, fifth-seeded Robin Soderling extended his solid form of late with a 6-1, 7-5 win over Italian wild card Paolo Lorenzi; seventh-seeded Jo-Wilfried Tsonga cruised past Viktor Troicki of Serbia 6-2, 6-3, and 11th-seeded Ivan Ljubicic eliminated Nicolas Almagro of Spain 7-5, 7-6 (3).

Also, Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil beat 14th-seeded John Isner _ the last American in the draw _ 7-6 (7), 7-5.

Soderling was coming off a runner-up finish at the Barcelona Open, where he lost to Fernando Verdasco in three sets. In the Swede's previous two tournaments _ Masters Series events in Indian Wells and Key Biscayne _ he reached the semifinals.

Soderling ended Nadal's perfect record at the French Open last year and is in the same quarter of the draw as the Spaniard here.

Nadal was happy to have the night off so he could watch Barcelona's Champions League semifinal against Inter Milan _ even though he's a Real Madrid fan.

"My uncle (Miguel Angel Nadal) played for Barca for eight years and I always support them when they play internationally," Nadal said.

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