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Nadal Opens Bid For Ninth Title; Dimitrov Battles

Monte-Carlo, Monaco

Nadal© Getty ImagesRafael Nadal overcame a slow start to beat Teymuraz Gabashvili.

On a record attendance day at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, Rafael Nadal opened his bid for a ninth title by defeating Teymuraz Gabashvili 6-4, 6-1.

The Spaniard was under pressure at the start, and stared down a double break as his Russian opponent led 3-1 and 30/40 on Nadal’s serve. But the left-hander turned the match around as he found his rhythm to reel off nine of the next 10 games to take the first set and open up a 4-0 lead in the second. He claimed his 49th victory at the Monte-Carlo Country Club in 73 minutes.

"It was very important that point, 3-1, break point for him," said Nadal. "I saved it with one good shot and one good volley. After that I felt that was the time to try to push a little bit more and increase a little bit the rhythm and the intensity. I did, I think. I played a good game to have the break back. I felt that I had the match a little bit more under control.

"Always in the first match, the thing that you want at the beginning is get into a rhythm, play some long points, find the feelings. But I didn't have that chance because he started very quick with finding the winners on the first ball that he could."

The 27-year-old Nadal is bidding to reclaim the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophy that he won eight successive years between 2005-12. He was dethroned in the final last year by Novak Djokovic, but went on to add to his Masters 1000 collection with victories in Madrid (d. Wawrinka), Rome (d. Federer), Montreal (d. Raonic) and Cincinnati (d. Isner). He is the record holder with 26 of the coveted trophies.

Top seed Nadal goes on to face Italian Andreas Seppi, who battled past Pablo Andujar 7-6(5), 5-7, 6-4 in two hours and 48 minutes. Nadal leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head series 4-1, though it will be their first meeting in five years.

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Grigor Dimitrov came through a second consecutive three-set battle to reach the third round, defeating qualifier Albert Ramos 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in just over two hours. The 12th-seeded Bulgarian had also been tested by Marcel Granollers a day earlier.

Dimitrov, who won his second ATP World Tour title in Acapulco (d. Anderson) in February, claimed his 16th win of the season. The 22 year old, who pushed Nadal to three sets in the quarter-finals here last year, goes on to face sixth seed David Ferrer.

The Monte-Carlo Country Club was filled to capacity with 14,600 fans enjoying the action on Wednesday. Both Court Central and Court des Princes were sold out. Court Central remains sold out for the remainder of the week, but a few tickets are available to purchase on the gate on the day of play on a first-come, first-served basis.

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