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Nadal eases through as Djokovic avoids upset

ESPN staff
April 17, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Rafael Nadal put on a fine display as he begins his quest for a ninth straight title © Getty Images
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Rafael Nadal notched up his 43rd consecutive victory at the Monte Carlo Masters after brushing aside Marinko Matosevic 6-1 6-2, but things were far more difficult for Novak Djokovic.

Nadal has triumphed at the glamorous Masters 1000 event for the past eight years, and the world No. 5 was never pushed against the player who dumped Fernando Verdasco out of the competition on Tuesday.

The undisputed King of Clay has only been beaten once in 2013, and has collected three titles - including the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells - since his return to the circuit in February following an eight-month injury lay-off.

Nadal made an ideal start to the match by breaking to love in the first game, before racing into a 3-0 lead as he pulled his opponent all over the court with heavy ground strokes. Matosevic only took two points in those early exchanges - one of them gifted via an unforced error from Nadal - but the Australian was in good spirits as he produced a wry smile while on the end of a demolition from Nadal.

Matosevic achieved some success when coming to the net in the fifth game, and the player ranked 54 in the world avoided the dreaded bagel by clinching his first game to make it 4-1, raising his arms in the air when the crowed applauded his efforts. However, Nadal was not to be denied the opening set as the current French Open champion converted his first set point.

A change of shirt inspired Matosevic in the second as he stunned Nadal by breaking serve and consolidated the advantage by holding to go 2-0 ahead. However, a great chance to secure a double break passed the Australian in the third game, and with it Nadal halved the deficit, before reclaiming the break and snapping up two games on the spin to take control.

Matosevic tried to pin Nadal back on the baseline, but against a player who has claimed 38 of his 53 titles on clay, it was a dangerous tactic to use, as Nadal ripped a couple of forehands up the line to open up a two-game lead at 4-2.

Nadal soon made it 5-2, and then sealed his place in the third round with another brilliant forehand down the line to complete the victory in two minutes over the hour mark.

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic avoided a shock exit after coming from a set down to defeat Mikhail Youzhny.

The Serb was playing in his first match since spraining his ankle during the Davis Cup against USA less than a fortnight ago, and his participation in the tournament was in doubt. However, the 25-year-old cast aside injury fears to book his place in the third round with a 4-6 6-1 6-4 victory.

It was a scrappy start to the match for Djokovic as he dropped serve in the first game. Youzhny was playing to the Serb's forehand, the side where the ankle injury was sustained. He managed to cement the break with Djokovic looking out-of-sorts, and quickly the Russian won the following two games to make it a double break. Djokovic appeared to be uncomfortable on court, and his struggles continued as Youzhny stormed into a 4-0 lead.

Novak Djokovic is bidding to win the Monte Carlo Masters for the first time © Getty Images
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The runner-up from 12 months ago managed to get a game on the board to make it 4-1 as he began to move more freely and connect cleanly with his shots, but Youzhny moved within one game of the set as he established a comfortable advantage.

Djokovic closed the gap to 5-4 by taking three games in a row, but Youzhny held on to clinch the opening set after the Serb dumped his shot after a long rally into the net.

With the first three games of the second set going to serve, Djokovic made his move in the fourth by breaking and stepping on the gas to lead 4-1, before taking the second 6-1.

Youzhny was tied up in knots and powerless to the Djokovic onslaught as he was dragged into a third and final set, where the latter continued his revival by breaking and taking the opening two games. From 3-1 behind Youzhny dug in, making the most of a brief umpire dispute involving Djokovic which allowed him to level the final set.

Youzhny saved three break points en route to leading 4-3, but Djokovic held serve for 4-4, and benefited from a misplaced drop shot from the Youzhny racket to crucially break at 5-4. Djokovic then closed out the win to keep his hopes of winning a maiden Monte Carlo Masters alive.

Tomas Berdych overcame a break in the first set to get the better of Marcel Granollers, with the Czech emerging a 7-5 6-4 victor to reach the next round. The world No. 6 was also a break of serve down in the second, but the former Wimbledon finalist was able to get the job done in straight sets, and continues an impressive campaign which has seen him reach the quarter-finals or better in every tournament he has participated in 2013.

The 12th seed Milos Raonic was beaten by Jarkko Nieminen 6-3 1-6 7-6(3), while Swiss No.2 Stanislas Wawrinka only dropped two games in his 6-1 6-1 victory over Albert Montanes. Jurgen Melzer put out tenth seed Nicolas Almagro 6-4 6-2, with ninth seed Marin Cilic defeating South African Kevin Anderson 6-2 6-3.

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