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Nadal Opens Campaign; Almagro Ousts Soderling

Madrid, Spain

Rafael Nadal© Getty ImagesRafael Nadal has a 17-6 match record in Madrid.

ATP World Tour No. 3 Rafael Nadal recorded his 11th straight clay-court win of 2010 Wednesday as he opened his Mutua Madrilena Madrid Open campaign with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Ukrainian qualifier Oleksandr Dolgopolov Jr.

Bidding to win a record 18th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 shield this week, Nadal won four straight games from 2-3 in the second set, having saved one break point in the fourth game, to seal victory in 86 minutes. After recording his 27th tour-level win of the season, Nadal met Real Madrid “Galacticos” Cristiano Ronaldo and Raul, who had watched his match.

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"It was a pretty rough start," said Nadal. "He’s not a nice opponent to play at all because of his style and the execution of his shots. It was difficult to see him, to see his shots; I never knew if the ball was coming fast or slow. And I played a pretty weak match. But, in the end I came out on top; suffering a bit along the way, but not too much. And now moving on to the third round, hopefully tomorrow I’ll play better."

The 23-year-old Nadal won the Madrid title in 2005 (d. Ljubicic), when the event was held on indoor hard court, and finished runner-up to Roger Federer last year in the first year the tournament was held on clay at the Caja Magica.

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Nadal came into Madrid unbeaten on clay this season, having won the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 clay-court tournaments in Monte-Carlo (d. Verdasco) and Rome (d. Ferrer) with the loss of just one set and having held serve 82 of 86 games.

Nadal next will face American No. 13 seed John Isner, who was two points from defeat at 6-6 in a second-set tie-break, but rallied to force a deciding set and prevail 1-6, 7-6(6), 6-2 against Colombian qualifier Santiago Giraldo. Isner fired 22 aces in the one-hour, 55-minute match. Last week, Isner reached his first ATP World Tour clay-court final at the Serbia Open 2010 in Belgrade, finishing runner-up to countryman Sam Querrey after holding one match point.

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World No. 35 Nicolas Almagro delighted the home crowd as he ousted fourth-seeded Swede Robin Soderling 6-4, 7-5 in one hour and 42 minutes. The Spaniard, who last week reached the quarter-finals (l. to Cilic) in Munich, has achieved his best result in Madrid, having previously only won one match in three attempts.

The No. 7-ranked Soderling, who reached his first Grand Slam final at Roland Garros (l. to Federer) last year, began his European clay-court campaign in fine form, finishing runner-up in Barcelona (l. to Verdasco), but then suffered a third-round exit in Rome (l. to Wawrinka).

Almagro next will face Argentine Juan Monaco, who broke serve five times from 13 opportunities as he dismissed Brazilian No. 16 seed Thomaz Bellucci 6-2, 6-2 in 71 minutes. World No. 27 Monaco posted strong clay-court results in South America in February, highlighted by a runner-up finish in Santiago (l. to Bellucci).

Austrian Jurgen Melzer set up a third-round clash with sixth seed Fernando Verdasco after coming from a set down to defeat American lucky loser Mardy Fish 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 in one hour and 39 minutes.

 

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