ACAPULCO: Rafael Nadal eased into the quarter-finals of the Mexican Open, continuing his comeback from the knee injury that sidelined the 11-time Grand Slam champion for seven months.
Nadal – playing in his third tournament in four weeks after his lengthy layoff – needed one hour and 16 minutes to get past Argentine qualifier Martin Alund 6-0, 6-4.
Nadal pocketed the first set in less than half an hour, saving all three of the break points he faced in the contest and winning 26 of his 33 first service points.
The convincing victory came a fortnight after Nadal needed three sets to get past Alund in the semi-finals of the clay court tournament in Sao Paulo, where Nadal went on to win his first title since last year’s French Open.
A week before that he fell in the final at Vina del Mar in Chile to Horacio Zeballos.
“The first set I played at a very high level,” said Nadal. “I started strong without any errors. In the second set Martin played at a high level and made it hard to close it out. I’m happy to be in the quarter-finals.”
Nadal has denied a Spanish media report that he has already decided to skip Indian Wells and Miami, saying he intended to go to Indian Wells and would only opt out if he feels his troublesome left knee is not up to it.
At both Vina del Mar and Sao Paulo, Nadal was the top seed but in Acapulco he is seeded second behind fellow Spaniard David Ferrer.
At number four in the world, Ferrer is currently ranked one spot higher than former number one Nadal and is the three-time defending champion in Acapulco.
Nadal, seeking a 38th career clay court title, will face Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer in the quarter-finals. Mayer defeated Russian Andrey Kuznetsov 6-2, 6-2.
Del Potro eases into Dubai semis
Meanwhile, fourth seed Juan Martin del Potro outplayed Germany’s Daniel Brands 6-4, 6-2 in their Dubai Tennis Championship quarter-final to qualify for the last-four round yesterday.
Del Potro broke Brands to love at 5-4 to clinch the 35-minute opener and at one point won five straight games. He won 81% of his first service points to record his 11th match win of the season.