Back pain sees Djokovic pull out of opening singles match for Serbia as Nadal helps give Spain advantage over France.
|Rafael Nadal is still destroying his opponents despite a long and hard season [GALLO/GETTY]|
Top seed Rafa Nadal ran hard-serving Canadian Milos Raonic ragged in a 7-5 6-3 victory to secure a place in the quarter-finals of the Japan Open on Thursday.
Defending Tokyo champion Nadal will face Santiago Giraldo next after the Colombian beat Russia’s Dmitry Tursunov 6-4 7-6 to reach the last eight of the $1.34 million hardcourt event.
“It’s not fun if you can’t touch the ball,” Nadal told reporters after dashing off to the practice court following his match.
“His first two service games I didn’t win a point.
“But it’s fantastic mental practice to try to stay focused on your serve and to wait for your chances on the return. Today I didn’t have one break point on my serve, which is a very positive thing.”
Britain’s Andy Murray joined Nadal in the last eight by crushing American Alex Bogomolov 6-1 6-2, relishing the warmer conditions a day after playing under a closed roof.
Nadal took a tight first set when Raonic’s biggest weapon let him down at a crucial time, the 20-year-old double-faulting before slicing a volley long on an aggressive charge to the net.
Raonic, making his return to the men’s tour after surgery on a hip injury he sustained at Wimbledon, appeared sapped of strength in the second set as the afternoon shadows crept across centre court.
Murray in a hurry
With Nadal pulling the strings in almost every rally, Raonic gifted the Spaniard a break for 4-2 with a shanked forehand which flew into the crowd.
Nadal, playing his first tournament since helping Spain reach the Davis Cup final last month, quickly moved in for the kill, ripping a forehand into the corner to finish the job.
“The match was difficult but not very hard physically,” the 10-times grand slam singles title winner said.
“He had a lot of free points on his serve so I still felt fresh. I had a day off yesterday so we decided I could get some practice.”
Nadal’s Spanish team mate David Ferrer made hard work of reaching the last eight, the third seed grinding out a 4-6 6-2 6-2 win over Australian qualifier Matthew Ebden.
Ferrer, Japan Open winner in 2007, will play seventh seed Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic next.
Second seed Murray, fresh off winning his third title of the year in Bangkok at the weekend, needed just 60 minutes to brush aside Bogomolov with a clinical performance.
Murray faces a test in the quarter-finals against Argentina’s David Nalbandian, who beat Ivan Dodig of Croatia 7-6 6-2 under floodlights in the day’s final singles match.