Rafael Nadal avenged last year’s loss to Nicolas Almagro by beating his fellow Spaniard 6-3, 6-1 at the Barcelona Open, while US Open champion Marin Cilic slumped to a second-round exit.
The second-seeded Nadal, who lost last week to Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo semi-finals, rebounded with a solid performance to advance to the third round.
Almagro upset Nadal on the same red clay court last year to end the eight-time champion’s run of 41 consecutive wins at the tournament he has dominated for almost a decade.
Nadal next faces either Fabio Fognini or Russian teenager Andrey Rublev.
Cilic lost to Victor Estrella of the Dominican Republic 6-4, 6-4. Estrella will next play Martin Klizan after the Slovak rallied past Juan Monaco 5-7, 6-0, 6-3.
“I was not too happy with the way I played,” Cilic said. “I made a lot of unforced errors. I feel I still need several matches to get my form to a good stage.”
Santiago Giraldo of Colombia beat Joao Sousa of Portugal 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, to reach a third-round meeting against top-seeded Kei Nishikori, setting up a rematch of last year’s final won by the Japanese.