Barcelona - Rafael Nadal continued his perfect start to the European
clay-court season by easing past fellow Spaniard Albert Montanes 6-2, 6-2 to
reach the quarter-finals of the Barcelona Open on Thursday.
Second seed and defending champion Kei Nishikori also
secured his place in the last eight with a 6-3, 7-5 win over France's Jeremy
Nadal is looking to equal Argentine legend Guillermo Vilas's
record of 49 clay-court tournament wins and capture a ninth title in the
Catalan capital having claimed the Monte Carlo Masters last week.
The 14-time Grand Slam champion has suffered shock defeats
in Barcelona in the past two years, but looks back close to his best on his
favoured surface as he won eight of the last 10 games to take his career record
over the 35-year-old Montanes to 4-0 in just over an hour on court.
Nadal was first on centre court due to a reschedule caused
by a morning rain delay, but was much more at ease with conditions having
complained of the strong winds during his second-round win over Marcel
Granollers on Wednesday.
"It was much nicer today. It was a strange day because
it rained all morning but the truth is there is no comparison between today and
yesterday," said Nadal.
And the 29-year-old planned to make the most of an early
finish with a mid-tournament trip to the cinema.
"I need to do my recovery work as it is the second
tournament in a row, last week was a hard week with a lot of long matches and
so I'll rest and maybe even go to the cinema."
Nadal will face a much tougher test in the quarter-finals on
Friday against Italian 12th seed Fabio Fognini, who overcame Serbia's Viktor
Troicki 6-3, 6-2 to reach the last eight.
Fognini dumped Nadal out at the last 16 in Barcelona last
year and also inflicted his first ever Grand Slam defeat after winning the
first two sets at the US Open in September.
Nishikori extended his winning streak in Barcelona to 12
matches over Chardy despite a momentary blip as he was broken when serving for
the match at 5-4 in the second set.
The Japanese world number six will face Alexandr Dolgopolov
or Karen Khachanov in the quarter-finals.
"I have to prepare a little bit quicker than before
because of the change in schedule," said Nishikori.
"I felt good, but a little bit slower than yesterday.
"I practice a lot with Alex and we are good friends,
it's not easy to play against friends, but it will be a great match."
France's Benoit Paire overcame Pablo Cuevas 6-2, 6-4 to set
up a quarter-final with Tunisian Malek Jaznin, who beat German teenage
sensation Alexander Zverev 7-6 (7/5), 6-4.
Results from the fourth day of the ATP Barcelona Open on Thursday (x denotes seeding):
Rafael Nadal (ESP x1) bt Albert Montanes (ESP) 6-2, 6-2
Fabio Fognini (ITA x12) bt Viktor Troicki (SRB x8) 6-3, 6-2
Benoit Paire (FRA x6) bt Pablo Cuevas (URU x9) 6-2, 6-4
Malek Jaziri (TUN) bt Alexander Zverev (GER) 7-6 (7/5), 6-4
Kei Nishikori (JPN x2) bt Jeremy Chardy (FRA x13) 6-3, 7-5