Chennai:World No.2 and top seed Rafael Nadal gave a tennis lesson to Indian American Rajeev Ram while racing to a 6-2, 6-1, win, and advanced to the quarter-finals of the $ 436,000 ATP Chennai Open tennis tournament.
But there were upset in store as, two seeded players, Nicolas Mahut (No.5) and Werner Eschauer (7) made their exit, losing to Merin Cilic and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, respectively.
Nadal next meets Garcia-Lopez in an all-Spanish clash while Cilic will take on the winner of the match between Robin Haase and qualifier Lovro Zovko scheduled for later tonight to complete the quarter-final line-up.
Nadal was not troubled by either a light drizzle in the second set or qualifier Ram who was born in Denver, Colorado, to Indian parents, both of whom are scientists by profession.
Nadal said he was quite pleased with his form though conditions tonight were quite tricky. "Lots of wind and the drizzle made it tough, but overall, I am quite happy with my performance. I would say, I am playing better than I did here last year when I lost in the semi-finals," he said.
On the outside court, Garcia-Lopez, ranked 90, played well within himself to come from a set down to win 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (3) against Eschauer of Austria (No.66) who at 33 a, was the oldest player in the singles draw.
Cilic underlined his potential with a stunning 6-2, 6-4 win over Mahut. The Croatian, who at 19 became the youngest player to break into top 100 last year, built his game around a strong serve and was far more consistent in shot-making, some of which left the 25-year old Frenchman rooted to the spot.
Ranked 71st, Cilic opened with a service break in the third game and then got another in the fifth to wrap up the set in just 28 minutes.
Despite coming off a strong season during which he twice beat top-10 player Nikolai Davydenko and climbed to 45 in the rankings, Mahut seemed under pressure played rather badly tonight. Neither was he serving deep enough nor were his shots sharp enough to fetch him points.
Having lost the first set, Mahut was at his best in the early part of the second when he broke back to level at 1-1 and held for a 2-1 advantage. It was the only time in the match the Frenchman led.
Mahut dropped serve yet again in the fifth after five deuces and Cilic seemed content to let the set progress with serve to eventually run out a convincing winner.
Cilic also used his considerable height (6ft-5in) and reach to come up with some unbelievable returns and looked sharp and mobile from the backcourt from where he fired a majority of his winners.
Mahut, in contrast, made a hash of the few opportunities that came his way, especialy in the sixth game of the second set when he was up two breakpoints. On both occasions, he hit wide to let Cilic off the hook.
The 75-minute match that was not always of the highest quality, had Cilic sending down eight aces to Mahut's four. The Croatian converted four of the 12 breakpoints as against Mahut who cashed in on just one of three.
On his win, Cilic said: "I played consistently well in the first set, but had some problems in the second. But I served well throughout the match."
"My target last year was to get into top 100 which I achieved at the end of the season when I won a few matches against higher ranked players. For 2008, I want to break into top 40," he added.