Rafael Nadal extended his winning streak at the start of the clay-court season to seven matches, after breezing past fellow Spaniard Albert Montanes in the third round of the Barcelona Open on Thursday. Fresh off winning his ninth title at the ATP Masters 1000 event in Monte Carlo last week, Nadal remained on course to match that feat in Barcelona with a 6-2 6-2 victory in just 68 minutes.
Nadal had defeated the 35-year-old wildcard in their three previous meetings and was never in danger of letting that streak end on Thursday. After a rain delay before play could get underway, the two initially traded breaks of serve. However, Montanes was only able to hold serve once in the opening set as Nadal broke twice more to clinch the set at the first time of asking.
The second set was similarly straightforward, with Nadal stepping into the court and firing big forehands to keep his opponent pinned firmly behind the baseline. Montanes had little to hurt Nadal, who dominated on his serve, winning 71 percent of his first-service points. And he clinched the match when breaking for a second time in the set, thanks to a big forehand right onto the baseline.
“I started off very well, and it felt really good,” he told Nadal told Alex Corretja in his post-match on-court interview. “I had a great forehand today and the conditions were much better than yesterday.”
The victory sets up a quarterfinal meeting with Fabio Fognini, and for Nadal presents an opportunity for revenge. The Italian ousted Nadal from the Barcelona Open at the third-round stage a year ago, his earliest exit from the tournament since 2003. And Fognini was also responsible for another of Nadal’s real low points of a season to forget in 2015. Nadal led two sets to love in the third round of the U.S. Open last September, but saw Fognini take the next three sets to send the 14-time Grand Slam champion crashing out.
Still, Nadal has won six of their nine meetings, including their last contest, in straight sets, in Beijing last year. And the Mallorca native will be desperate to keep his winning streak going. Not only would the title in Barcelona bring him level with Guillermo Vilas for the most clay-court titles in the Open Era, with 49, but it would continue his momentum ahead of his attempt to reclaim the French Open crown at Roland Garros.