RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Rafael Nadal kept rolling in his first clay-court of the season with a 7-5, 6-3 victory on Thursday over fellow Spaniard and friend Pablo Carreno Busta to reach the quarterfinals of the Rio Open.
No 4 Fabio Fognini of Italy advanced, beating Pablo Andujar of Spain 6-3, 6-2.
Women’s top seed Sara Errani of Italy also reached the quarterfinals, defeating Lourdes Dominguez Lino of Spain 6-0, 7-5 in the combined ATP-WTA tournament.
Nadal looks slimmer, says he’s free from injury and illness, and it’s showed in his first two victories in Brazil. It’s all aimed at getting ready in three months for the French Open, which he has won nine of the past 10 times.
Nadal wasn’t fantastic, just good enough against a little-known opponent who has yet to win an ATP title. Nadal has won 64, including 14 Grand Slams.
He struggled in the first set, unable to shake Carreno Busta. Nadal failed to convert three set points in the 10th game, but finished off the set by breaking Carreno Busta in the final game.
In the second set, Nadal broke in the eighth game to lead 5-3 and then served out the match on a hot, steamy night.
“Tough conditions, a difficult, young opponent and I’m just content to be in the quarterfinals,” Nadal said. “For me every victory is important, and even more so on clay.”
Nadal was asked about his weight. He looks lighter and leaner, but said nothing has changed.
“I am not thinner,” he said. “For six years my weight has been practically the same, always between 85 and 86 ½ kilos (188-190 pounds). Before I used to play with sleeveless shirts. This makes the muscles seem like more.”
“My physical side is about the same as always. Everything is the same. There are no changes in my life. There are no changes in my preparation.”
Nadal faces No 6 Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay on Friday, while No 2 seed David Ferrer of Spain goes against Juan Monaco of Argentina.
Errani faces wild-card Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia.
The Italian is already thinking of next year’s Olympic tennis in Rio, probably in a partnership with Roberta Vinci.
In other men’s matches, Cuevas defeated Albert Montanes of Spain 6-2, 6-2 and Federico Delbonis of Argentina defeated No 8 Martin Klizan of Slovakia 6-2, 6-1.
On the women’s side, No 6 Anna Schmiedlova of Slovakia made the final eight with a victory over Paula Ormaechea of Argentina 6-0, 6-2.
Two other seeded players went out in their second-round matches. Veronica Cepede Royg of Paraguay defeated No 3 Roberta Vinci of Italy 6-2, 6-3, and Haddad Maia won over No 7 Polona Hercog of Slovenia 6-1, 6-2.