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Nadal has it easy; del Potro crashes out

Rafael Nadal. afp

Rafael Nadal made the perfect start to his bid for a sixth Madrid Open title on Wednesday by beating Canadian teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime in straight sets.

Nadal has endured a turbulent few weeks after slipping to surprise defeats in both Monte Carlo and Barcelona last month before then being hit by a stomach bug on Sunday.

But there was never much sign of an upset in the Spanish capital, where the world number two began with a 6-3, 6-3 victory.

The 32-year-old, who will be chasing his 18th Grand Slam title at Roland Garros, will now face another young talent in America’s Frances Tiafoe, with either Stan Wawrinka or Kei Nishikori waiting in the quarterfinals.

Nishikori and Wawrinka will meet in the third round on Thursday, an early showdown for two players that have reached 12 Grand Slam semifinals between them.

It took Nishikori just over two hours to win 7-5, 7-5 against Bolivian qualifier Hugo Dellien, who saved seven set points during a fightback from 5-1 down in the opening set.

Wawrinka, meanwhile, beat Argentina’s Guido Pella 6-3, 6-4, with a break in each set proving enough for the three-time Grand Slam champion.

Juan Martin del Potro lost 6-3, 2-6, 7-5 to Serbia’s Laslo Djere in his first match since February as the Argentine continues to work his way back from a knee injury.

Nishikori’s compatriot and world number one Naomi Osaka is through to the quarter-finals of the women’s tournament for the first time after she eased past Belarusian Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-2, 6-3.

In the last eight, the two-time major champion will face Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic who beat Ukrainian qualifier Kateryna Kozlova 6-0, 6-2.

A potential semi-final foe for Osaka is world number three Simona Halep, who annihilated Slovakian Viktoria Kuzmova 6-0, 6-0 in 44 minutes.

Federer wins

Roger Federer shook off a brief bout of pre-match jitters as he returned to clay after a three-year absence, posting a 6-2, 6-3 win over Richard Gasquet on Tuesday.

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