Rome, April 30 (Inditop) Rafael Nadal maintained his lethal pace on clay through his 26th straight win on the surface as confident Roger Federer began his title challenge with straight-sets success at the Rome Masters.
Top seed Nadal, winner of a fifth consecutive title at both Monte Carlo and Barcelona in recent weeks, claimed a place in the third round over Italy’s Andreas Seppi 6-2, 6-3.
“I’m coming here with big motivation, Rome is a very big tournament,” said Nadal, a three-time champion. “It’s impossible to win every year. I’m going to try my best to have a good result here.”
The world No.1 ‘King of Clay’ Nadal has compiled a 144-4 match record on clay since 2005 and in his career, standing 24-1 in clay court finals, his last played in Barcelona three days ago.
Federer came to the court against the all-serve game of Ivo Karlovic and fired his lone ace on match point against 15 for the Croatian in a 6-4, 6-4 win.
“I can’t judge this kind of kind of a match because it’s not real tennis with Ivo because it’s all about reaction,” said two-time Rome finalist Federer, still seeking his first 2009 title after winning his last in October.
“This was more like a hardcourt match – just hoping to get through. It’s a real tough one to have as a first round.
“I just wanted to get out there and have some fun and play some tennis again in a match situation. It gave me information. I practised really hard, so I feel better,” he said after losing in the Monte Carlo third round less than a week after getting married.
Fourth seed Andy Murray became an upset victim, falling to Argentine Juan Monaco 1-6, 6-3, 7-5.
It was Murray’s earliest loss since the Beijing Olympics (first round) and ended a run of superlative 2009 form at the Masters level, where he played the Indian Wells final, won Miami and reached the last four in Monte Carlo.
He owns three titles in 2009, one less than Nadal.
“During the first set, the court was very heavy and very damp,” said Murray. “At the end, it was, you know, really dry, quite slippy, and much quicker.
“That might explain why it was a bit of a different standard of tennis played. Maybe when the courts dried out he was able to dictate more of the points.
“I’m not saying the conditions were the reason I lost the match. It was just very different to what it was at the start. I don’t mind whether the clay is quicker or slower. They just changed a lot during the match.”
Murray’s loss in the wake of the a Monte Carlo semi postpones any hope Murray might have had this week at the Foro Italico of advancing in the rankings on number three Novak Djokovic.
Sixth seed Fernando Verdasco beat American Mardy Fish 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 while Austrian Juergen Melzer beat seventh seed Nikolay Davydenko 7-5, 7-6 (7-5) as the Russian who played a Barcelona semi against Nadal failed to fire.
There were also wins into the third round for tenth seed Stan Wawrinka, last year’s finalist, number 12 Fernando Gonzalez, 13th seed Tommy Robredo and Croatian number 15 Marin Cilic as the event got back on schedule after two days of rain interruptions.