MADRID, Spain, May 5 – Rafael Nadal led the men's elite into the third round of the ATP-WTA Madrid Masters on Wednesday as the major names swept to solid victories and Roger Federer was made to struggle.
Nadal led the way for rivals Novak Djokovic, Federer, Andy Murray and Robin Soderling on a full day’s programme at the Caja Magica.
While the rest won without problems, Federer had to come through a huge battle to wear down Feliciano Lopez 7-6 (15/13), 6-7 (1/7), 7-6 (9/7), taking nearly three hours and firing 25 aces outside a Grand Slam event for the first time in his career.
"I’m relieved to get through," said the Swiss, who has only hours to recover for a meeting with Xavier Malisse. "It was not easy at all.
"But it all came together for me in the end nicely. It didn’t feel like a clay match, it was bang-bang. I was playing OK. It got more and more difficult to return his serve.
"It was a tough match. I guess it will help me for the French Open, I did spend three hours on clay."
Federer took 70 minutes and nine set points to win the opening set only to see his long-time rival Lopez claw back the second.
The third was a lottery, with Federer finally prevailing on a second match point as Lopez returned long.
The top-seeded holder Nadal won a 35th consecutive clay match, dispatching Marcos Baghdatis 6-1, 6-3 in just under 90 minutes.
Nadal has not lost on clay since 2009, in the French Open fourth round to Soderling.
"I played well, it was a solid match with not many mistakes," said the Spanish world number one. "It was very positive to beat an opponent against whom I last lost (in August 2010 in Cincinnati)."
Nadal faces a high-voltage third-round showdown with Argentine Juan Del Potro, who thrashed Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-0 after complaining of hip pain a day earlier.
"I will need all of the crowd support when I play Del Potro," said Nadal. "The winner of this match will get confidence for the rest of the tournament."
Djokovic kept his 2011 winning streak alive as he claimed his 28th straight victory of 2011 with a 6-3, 6-4 defeat of South African Kevin Anderson.
He will next face Spain’s Guillermo Garcia Lopez as he tries to equal the 29-0 season start of Ivan Lendl, achieved in 1986.
Djokovic’s victory tally now stands at 30 consecutive matches, as his two Davis Cup finals wins are also counted.
"Where there is altitude it’s tough to control the ball, there are more mistakes," said Djokovic, who has won five titles this season.
"It’s crucial to stay really focused for each point. You don’t get that much time on this court and serving well is an advantage.
"It’s a fact that I’m playing the best tennis of my life. I’m definitely happy about it."
Two-time Roland Garros finalist Soderling followed number four seed Murray into the third round.
Fifth seed Soderling beat Colombia’s Santiago Giraldo 6-3, 6-3; Murray struggled but got past Gilles Simon of France 6-4, 3-6, 6-0, taking almost two and a half hours.
In the women’s event, China’s Li Na defeated Czech Iveta Benesova 6-1, 6-4 to set up a match with Italian Roberta Vinci, who beat Russian Alisa Kleybanova 6-2, 6-2.
Li secured her win in 58 minutes with five aces and three breaks of serve.
In the third round, Czech 16th seed Petra Kvitova upset second-seeded Russian Vera Zvonareva 6-1, 6-4 to earn the first of the quarter-final spots.