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Nadal Opens Bid For Ninth Crown; Ferrer Beaten

Barcelona, Spain

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World No. 1 Rafael Nadal opened his bid for a ninth Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell title on Wednesday with a hard-fought 7-6(2), 6-4 victory over fellow Spaniard Albert Ramos. Nadal rallied from a break down in the first set and hit 18 winners to 27 unforced errors as he prevailed in just under two hours.

"It was a positive victory for me," said Nadal. "Obviously I didn't play my best match, but after the defeat in Monte-Carlo, the next match on court was never going to be easy. I am happy with the way I fought and proud of the victory today. The victories are more important when you haven't played well. I feel happy to be through on a tough day for the top seeds.

"I need to improve everything. I'm working every day to play more aggressively. I need to find the feeling of being dominant in the points. I feel that sometimes I'm hitting balls from good positions and I'm not able to create the right spaces, to find winners. I need to try and find that for the next match."

The 27-year-old Nadal has a 41-1 record at the Real Club de Tenis Barcelona, having won the title from 2005-’09 and 2011-’13. Last week in Monte-Carlo, the Mallorcan claimed his 300th clay-court match win (301-22 record) and is this week chasing his 44th clay-court title. 

Having won just four games when he played David Ferrer last month in Miami, Teymuraz Gabashvili exacted revenge as he stunned the second-seeded Spaniard in the second round. Last week, Ferrer had beaten Nadal in the Monte-Carlo quarter-finals before losing to Stanislas Wawrinka in the semis.

World No. 55 Gabashvili broke serve four times and saved seven of the eight break points he faced to beat No. 5-ranked Ferrer 6-4, 6-2 in 81 minutes, claiming the biggest win of his career and his third Top 10 victory.

Sixth seed Nicolas Almagro reached the third round with a 7-5, 7-6(4) victory over Martin Klizan. The Spaniard, runner-up at this ATP World Tour 500 clay-court tournament last year (l. to Nadal), improved to a 22-10 tournament record as he hit 12 aces and converted two of his 10 break points. 

Albert Montanes upset eighth seed Alexandr Dolgopolov with a 7-6(5), 6-3 victory in one hour and 33 minutes, earning a third-round clash with ninth seed Ernests Gulbis. The 33-year-old Montanes recorded back-to-back main draw wins for just the second time this season and will look to reach the Barcelona quarter-finals for the third time in 13 visits.

Another seed fell as seventh seed Jerzy Janowicz was beaten 6-4, 7-6(1) by Jurgen Melzer, who later tweeted, “Even though I got tight in the end serving for the match, I played a pretty good breaker... so happy to win 2 matches in a row!” The Austrian returned from injury last week in Monte-Carlo and inflicted on Janowicz his fourth successive opening-round defeat.

Fernando Verdasco, 2010 champion and this year the 11th seed, opened his Barcelona campaign with a 6-4, 6-3 triumph over Kenny De Schepper of France. Two weeks ago, Verdasco claimed his first title in four years in Houston (d. Almagro).

Croatian Marin Cilic, the 12th seed, downed qualifier Andrey Kuznetsov 6-1, 7-6(2) in 77 minutes to set up a third-round meeting with fifth seed Tommy Robredo.

Colombian Santiago Giraldo will face rising star Dominic Thiem in the third round after beating third seed Fabio Fognini. Giraldo was leading 6-0, 4-0 when Fognini retired with a right thigh injury.

Fifth Seeds Scrape Through
Fifth seeds Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic scraped into the quarter-finals with a 6-7(3), 7-6(5), 10-8 victory over ‘Colombian Power’ Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah. The Canadian/Serbian duo progressed in one hour and 46 minutes to a meeting with Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi and Rohan Bopanna. Nestor/Zimonjic are looking to win the Barcelona trophy for the third time after victories in 2009-’10.

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