Monte Carlo - Rafael Nadal emerged a 6-4, 6-3 winner over Jarkko Nieminen with no obvious discomfort to his troublesome left knee as the Spaniard began his quest for a record eighth title at the Monte Carlo Masters on Wednesday.
Nadal, now 40-1 at the venue where he lost his only match in 2003, won his 38th straight game in the principality as he overcame stubborn resistance from the Finn ranked 48th who claimed the Sydney title in January.
Nadal, who required two weeks of knee treatment after failing to play his Miami semi-final match due to pain, has not lifted a trophy since the French Open ten months ago.
The second seed joined world No 1 Novak Djokovic in moving through a clay-season opener in straight sets on a cloudy day on the Mediterranean coast.
Djokovic began with a 6-1, 6-4, victory over Andreas Seppi. taking a 5-0 lead over the 44th-ranked Italian and breaking for an early lead in the second on the way to his seventh win in the series.
"I served really well when I needed to," said Djokovic. "That's encouraging for the clay, it's good to have a couple of free points there.
"I was really focused first set and played it well against a tough, quality opponent who plays good on clay. For the first official (clay) match since Roland Garros last year, it was satisfying."
The top seed will next play 16th seed Alexandr Dolgopolov, who put out new Monte Carlo resident Bernard Tomic 6-2, 5-7, 6-1.
"He's a very talented player, comes up with some shots that are not really typical," said Djokovic of Dolgopolov. "He changes the pace and is very dangerous on clay.
"I need to be aware and disciplined on the court. I need to try not to be frustrated with the rhythm that he comes up with."
Three of four other seeds also reached the third round, with Serb No 7 anko Tipsarevic advancing over Spain's Albert Montanes 6-2, 6-3.
No 8 Nicolas Almagro beat Italian Potito Starace 7-6 (7/3), 6-1 while No 9 Frenchman Gilles Simon won a match that began at the early hour of 10:30, beating Frederico Gil of Portugal 6-3, 6-0.
Julien Benneteau registered a French win as he put out 2011 semi-finalist and 15th seed Jurgen Melzer 6-4, 6-3. Mikhail Kukushkin beat Italy's Filippo Volandri 7-6 (10/8), 2-6, 6-2 and Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka beat Pablo Andujar 7-5, 6-3.
Results from the Monte Carlo Masters men's singles second-round matches on Wednesday:
Novak Djokovic (SRB x1) bt Andreas Seppi (ITA) 6-1, 6-4
Rafael Nadal (ESP x2) bt Jarkko Nieminen (FIN) 6-4, 6-3
Gilles Simon (FRA x9) bt Frederico Gil (POR) 6-3, 6-0
Oleksandr Dolgopolov Jr. (UKR x16) bt Bernard Tomic (AUS) 6-2, 5-7, 6-1
Julien Benneteau (FRA) bt Jurgen Melzer (AUT) 6-4, 6-3
Janko Tipsarevic (SRB x7) bt Albert Montanes (ESP) 6-2, 6-3
Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ) bt Filippo Volandri (ITA) 7-6 (10/8), 2-6, 6-2
Robin Haase (NED) bt Fabio Fognini (ITA) 6-4, 6-4
Thomaz Belluci (BRA) bt David Ferrer (ESP x5) 6-3, 6-2
Tomas Berdych (CZE x6) bt Marin Cilic (CRO) 7-6 (7/3), 6-1
Nicolas Almagro (ESP x8) bt Potito Starace (ITA) 7-6 (7/3), 6-1
Stanislas Wawrinka (SWI) bt Pablo Andujar (ESP) 7-5, 6-3