Spain's Rafael Nadal breezed into the quarterfinals of the inaugural Rio Open with a comfortable 6-1, 6-2 victory over countryman Albert Montañes.
Playing his first tournament since losing to Switzerland's Stanislas Wawrinka in the Australian Open final in late January, when a back injury affected the Spaniard's serving and movement, the world No. 1 dominated the baseline points throughout Thursday night's match at the Jockey Club Brasileiro.
Nadal raced out to a 4-0 lead against his 72nd-ranked opponent and then got a third service break to wrap up the first set.
Montañes was slightly more competitive in the latter part of the match, breaking the top seed's serve in the fifth game to get the second set on serve at 2-3.
But he then proceeded to lose his serve two more times over the next three games as the match came to an abrupt end.
The highlight for the crowd occurred when Brazilian former tennis star and three-time French Open champion Gustavo Kuerten took a seat in the crowd midway through the second set.
Kuerten later received a career achievement award, which Nadal personally presented to his friend on center court.
Nadal, who wore elastic tape across his back during the match, talked to reporters afterward about his recovery.
"When you get injured in the final of a Grand Slam and stop for 2 1/2 weeks, it's not easy to come back. The back is still bothering me a little bit. But I am happy with my decision to be here," he was quoted as saying on the ATP World Tour's Web site.
Next up for the world No. 1 in Friday's quarterfinals will be Portugal's João Sousa, a 7-6 (8-6), 2-6, 6-3 winner Thursday over Spain's Albert Ramos.
The other quarterfinal matchup on the top side of the draw pits Spain's Tommy Robredo against countryman Pablo Andujar, while Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov will play Italy's Fabio Fognini and second-seeded Spaniard David Ferrer will take on Brazil's Thomaz Belluccio for the remaining semifinal berths. EFE