Nadal bids for home history
Barcelona - Rafael Nadal, fresh from his latest re-write of the record books with a sixth straight title in Monte Carlo, carries massive momentum into this week's Barcelona Open.
The top seed at the Real Club de Tenis is also aiming for six on a row in the Catalan capital.
Any repeat of Sunday's towering feat would be all the more sweet after Team Nadal arrived from the French Riveria by car, a wise decision given the current volcano ash chaos at European airports.
"Right now I must be really happy at how I'm doing," said Nadal as he quietly celebrated his win in the principality.
Two compatriots Monday followed the example of the confident world number three, whose Monte Carlo victory snapped a victory drought of 50 weeks since his last title in Rome last May.
The 15th seed Nicolas Almagro put out compatriot Santiago Ventura 6-1 6-2 on the opening day while Guillermo Garcia-Lopez stopped Belgian qualifier Olivier Rochus 5-7 6-1 6-3.
Nadal and the other top eight seeds receive byes into the second round, with the top seed and tournament dominator to now face 42nd-ranked Garca Lopez standing 2-0 in the series dating to 2005.
The four-time Roland Garros champion also believes his overwhelming 6-0, 6-1 Monte Carlo thrashing of countryman Fernando Gonzalez in less than 90 minutes puts the boot into the knockers, who suggested that the Spaniard's era might be fading due to his well documented knee injury absences of 2009 and 2010.
"I'm was back to my best level on January 1," said the satisfied champion.
"But now I've won a tournament. In Abu Dhabi (exhibition in early January) I was playing my best level."
And 2008 Wimbledon champion Nadal has warned that it won't be just on his preferred clay where he expects to make more frequent winning impressions.
"More important than the surface is the tactic on court," he said. "You want to have chances to attack, to defend.
"It's very important to be very regular, and not to make a lot of mistakes - no mistakes when you are offensive and no mistakes when you are defensive."
In other first-round play, Brazilian 13th seed Thomas Bellucci put out struggling Finn Jarkko Nieminen 6-4 6-4 while Dutch hope Thiemo de Bakker hammered Alejandro Falla of Colombia 6-1 6-0.
Two Argentines joined the victory party as Eduardo Schwank defeated Italian Fabio Fognini 6-1 6-3 and Juan Ignacio Chela put out Serb youngster Filip Krajinovic 6-1 6-4.
Nadal has not lost in Barcelona since 2003 when he went out as a teenager to two-time French Open finalist Alex Corretja, currently the clay-court coach of Briton Andy Murray.
The Scot opted out to play this week after his dismal Monte Carlo defeat, instead training hard with Corretja in the city.
Swede Robin Soderling, the 2009 French Open finalist against Roger Federer, takes the second seeding as he tests the knee injury which kept him from Monte Carlo.
Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga will follow up his debut in Monaco with a similar start in Barcelona, taking the third seeding ahead of Chile's Fernando Gonzalez.
Lleyton Hewitt takes to the clay at the Catalan capital for the first time since reaching the 2002 semi-finals, with the 29-year-old Australian making his European clay debut after a second hip operation last January.
Hewitt began his week with a doubles win Monday.