Madrid: World number one Rafael Nadal recorded his 20th straight win on clay as he began his quest for a sixth title in Madrid, defeating Frenchman Gael Monfils 6-3, 6-1.
Nadal, who received a bye in the opening round, fired 17 winners and went on to lose just one of 13 service points in the second set to seal victory.
The 31-year-old Spaniard has now won 48 consecutive sets on the surface, two sets shy of breaking American John McEnroe’s record of 49 straight sets on a single surface in 1984.
"I'm happy to start with a victory," said Nadal, whose last loss on the dirt came against Dominic Thiem in Rome last year. "It was a very solid match in all aspects."
Nadal will next face Diego Schwartzman, who defeated Feliciano Lopez 7-5, 2-6, 6-2. The 36-year-old Lopez will be the tournament director in Madrid beginning next year.
World number seven Thiem and second-seeded Alexander Zverev joined Nadal in the last-16 but Novak Djokovic added another early elimination to his disappointing season.
Thiem rallied to defeat Argentine Federico Delbonis 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 while Zverev cruised past Russia’s Evgeny Donskoy 6-2, 7-5.
Djokovic lost to Kyle Edmund 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 in the second round, the sixth straight tournament in which he has failed to reach the quarter-finals.
Djokovic has struggled this year after saying he returned to action too quickly following a lingering right elbow injury.
"There are obvious things that are not working well for me," the 12-time Grand Slam champion said. "But I have to keep working on them and pray that...and hope that my game will get stronger."
Djokovic lost in the third round in Monte Carlo and in the second round in both Miami and Indian Wells. The 12th-ranked Serb also failed to advance past the last-16 at the Australian Open.
"One or two points decide really these kind of matches," Djokovic said. "Luck was on his side a little bit. But, also, he was courageous enough to attack the balls when it mattered and deserved to win."
Djokovic played poorly in the first set but recovered to comfortably win the second. He had a chance to go up a break early in the third set but lost five straight points to allow Edmund to come back from 0-40.
The unseeded British player then broke Djokovic's serve to go up 5-3 and easily closed out the match on his serve.
"I just felt good today, felt I was hitting the ball well," Edmund said.
"I just knew that if I put myself in the match hopefully in the closing stages I would give myself a chance. That game in the third set was very key. When Novak gets a lead it's very hard to break him down because he becomes a bit more aggressive."
Edmund will next play eighth-seeded David Goffin, who defeated Robin Haase 7-5, 6-3.
Seventh-seeded John Isner beat fellow American Ryan Harrison 7-6 (1), 7-6 (7), while eighth-ranked Kevin Anderson defeated qualifier Mikhail Kukushkin 5-7, 7-6 (3), 6-2 to set up a third-round match against Philipp Kohlschreiber, who beat Roberto Bautista Agut 6-3, 4-6, 7-5.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: May 10, 2018 09:37 AM