MONTE CARLO, April 16 – Rafael Nadal, bidding for a fifth consecutive Monte Carlo Masters title, reached the third round on Wednesday by racking up his 134th claycourt win, against just four defeats, since 2005.
Roger Federer also breezed through to stay on course for a fourth consecutive final appearance as the build-up to the French Open continues.
Federer saw off Italian Andreas Seppi 6-4, 6-4 and will face Swiss compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka for a place in the quarter-finals.
Nadal recovered from dropping serve twice to beat dogged Argentine Juan Ignacio Chela 6-2, 6-3 and will next face Ecuador’s Nicolas Lapentti who defeated Marat Safin.
The volatile Russian, who squandered a 5-2 third set lead as well as three match points, flirted with disqualification as his hopes crumbled.
Federer, the second seed, was kept on his toes as Seppi saved three match points in the penultimate game on his own serve before the Swiss brought proceedings to a close after 1hr 23min.
"Maybe I could have made it easier for myself in the second," said Federer.
"I had some opportunities. He hung in there and I didn’t play my best. But I’m still happy I came through so good."
Nadal is hoping to repeat his superman act of past claycourt seasons as the four-time French Open champion begins another long haul towards Paris.
"I played some games well and also had some terrible games," said Nadal who has defeated Federer in the last three finals here.
"In the beginning of the second, after two games, I was really bad (he lost 11 straight points).
"I was up and down during all the match. I have to improve my concentration in the next match. That’s the important thing."
Qualifier Lapentti won a roller-coaster three-and-a-half-hour marathon against Safin.
The Russian lived up to his reputation, wasting three match points and coming within a hair of a racquet smash which would have ended the match.
Lapentti held on through the drama to advance 7-6 (8/6), 2-6, 7-6 (8/6).
Croatian veteran Ivan Ljubicic upset fifth seed Juan Martin Del Potro 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, but his 14th seeded compatriot Marin Cilic was humbled by Fabio Fognini 6-2, 6-0.
The Italian will face fourth seed Andy Murray on Thursday.
Nikolay Davydenko, seeded sixth, returned to the circuit after two months out with a heel injury, and enjoyed a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Croatian giant Ivo Karlovic.
Spanish seventh seed Fernando Verdasco advanced over German Philip Kohlschreiber 6-3, 6-4 while Argentine number 12 David Nalbandian staged a fightback to get past Spaniard Marcello Granollers 4-6, 6-3, 6-1.
Wawrinka, the 13th seed, lines up against Federer after winning a 2hr 37min marathon over Argentine Marcello Vassallo Arguello 2-6, 7-5, 6-2.
Federer, supremely relaxed and confident after his weekend marriage and awaiting a child with wife Mirka Vavrinec this summer, sent his season mark to 18-4 as he seeks his first title of 2009.
"Of course, I like to play against him," Federer said of facing Wawrinka with whom he won Olympic doubles gold in Beijing last year.
"I’m so happy he was able to take it to the next level last year, getting into the top 10, finally making the break.
"He’s always been a work in progress, taking one step back, two steps forward. It’s nice to see him playing more consistently now on a regular basis.
"It’s our first match on clay against each other."