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Nadal Outclasses Monfils, One Win From Regaining World No. 2 Ranking

Madrid, Spain

Rafael Nadal© Getty ImagesRafael Nadal has a perfect 13-0 record on clay courts this year.

Second seed and 2005 titlist Rafael Nadal outplayed No. 12 seed Gael Monfils of France for a 6-1, 6-3 victory at the Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open on Friday to keep alive his chances of capturing a record 18th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title.

Nadal, who is second behind his Spanish compatriot David Ferrer for match wins this year (29-4 record), is now one victory from regaining No. 2 in the South African Airways 2010 ATP Rankings. On Saturday, the 23 year old will meet his unseeded countryman Nicolas Almagro.

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"In the first set, I played at a very high level," said Nadal, who is attempting to become the first player to win all three ATP World Tour clay-court tournaments in one year. "This is the toughest tournament for me, the conditions are the most difficult of the year for me on clay, but I'm fine."

He broke the Monfils serve in the third game of the 33-minute first set and again in the sixth game, when the Frenchman hit a backhand crosscourt into the net. He dropped four points on serve, hit 10 winners and won all four net approaches.

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Monfils fought back from 0-30 and two break points in an eight-minute third game of the second set, before failing to convert two break point opportunities at 15-40 on the Nadal serve, when the Spaniard hit a forehand approach and forehand volley winners.

At 2-2, Monfils led 40-0 before a loss of concentration got Nadal back into the game. The pressure kept mounting for Monfils, who surrendered a lengthy seventh game. He went on to hit his seventh double fault of the match at 3-5, 30/40, to hand Nadal his sixth win in seven meetings in 79 minutes.

This week, Monfils was appearing in his first clay-court tournament of the year after he recovered from a hand injury. He hit 12 winners and committed 30 unforced errors. "I enjoy connecting with the crowd," said Monfils said. "I played my game as well as I could, but I was up against the best clay player on the planet and I lost so what can you do."

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Earlier on Friday, Almagro required just 59 minutes to beat Jurgen Melzer of Austria 6-3, 6-1. The 24-year-old Murcia resident won 79 per cent of service points and hit six aces for a place in his first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final. He last reached a tour-level final in February 2009 at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel in Acapulco.

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