Nadal in command on Monaco clay

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Nadal in command on Monaco clay

MONTE CARLO, Monaco - Rafael Nadal began his quest for an unprecedented seventh consecutive title at the Monte Carlo Masters by storming past Jarkko Nieminen 6-2, 6-2 here on Wednesday.

Nadal, Spain’s top-seeded king of clay, who lost his only match in Monaco in 2003, spent just 69 minutes eliminating Nieminen from action. Neiminen dropped the first 10 points of the one-sided contest.

“It’s the first match on clay, so it’s an important victory for me,” said Nadal.

“But we will see. I didn’t practice perfect last week, I need matches. Today was a positive start. For sure it was a good victory,” Nadal added.

Later, No. 3 seed Andy Murray earned a reassuring win, his first victory since January 30 in Australia, as he beat Czech Radek Stepanek 6-1, 6-4, ending a career-worst run of four straight losses.

“I really went for it in this match, this is a challenging surface for me,” said Murray, who had not won a set during his losing streak.

“I played well; I’m happy to get this win. I need time to get adjusted on clay,” Murray added.

Murray reached the semifinals here in 2009 but went out in his opening match a year ago.

Nadal took charge immediately against the 59th-ranked Nieminen, sweeping the Finn aside in the first set in just 32 minutes as he found his feet on his favorite surface. But in the end, it did not go totally to plan.

Nieminen saved a pair of match points trailing 1-5 in the second set with a cross-court volley winner and a wide Nadal forehand, eventually holding for 2-5.

But Nadal was back on form a game later as the Spaniard served up a victory on his third match point, a winner that Nieminen could not touch.

Nadal, the only player to win an ATP title for six straight years, improved to an overwhelming 35-1 in Monaco. He has won 33 straight matches at the venue since his 2003 debut.

He pounded Nieminen for the sixth time without a loss, running his record on sets against the Finn to 15-1.

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