Nadal, Nishikori advance in Barcelona

Rafael Nadal picked up where he left off in Monte Carlo by winning his opening match at the Barcelona Open on Wednesday, while defending champion Kei Nishikori also advanced.

Nadal continued to look much improved on his favoured clay surface, racing to a straightforward 6-3, 6-2 victory over countryman Marcel Granollers-Pujol.

While Granollers was quickest out of the blocks, shocking his opponent by breaking serve in the first game of the match, Nadal hit back immediately to level the scores and then broke again in the fourth game for a 3-1 lead.

The eight-time Barcelona champion never looked back from there, and didn’t face another break point as he wrapped up the victory in 93 minutes.

Awaiting Nadal in the third round is another Spaniard, Albert Montanes, who defeated Portugal’s Joao Sousa 6-1, 6-3.

Second seed and two-time defending champion Kei Nishikori also got his tournament under way on Wednesday, comfortably beating Dutchman Thiemo de Bakker 6-4, 6-2.

The Japanese star defied the windy on-court conditions to win 74 per cent of his service points and break serve three times on the way to a 69-minute victory.

“I’m happy to be back in Barcelona,” said Nishikori. “Today’s conditions were tough with the wind and I’m happy to be in the next round.”

Next up for Nishikori is Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, who beat Victor Estrella 7-5, 6-2 on Tuesday.

There were also second-round wins for Alexander Zverev, Fabio Fognini, Phillip Kohlschreiber and Andrey Kuznetsov.