Rafael Nadal got his clay court season back on track with a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Bosnian Damir Dzumhur to reach the third round of the Italian Open on Wednesday, while sixth seed Dominic Thiem suffered an early exit.
Nadal, who lost his world No 1 ranking after his 14-match winning run on clay was snapped by Thiem in the Madrid Open quarter-finals last week, was back to his best as he wrapped up victory with a blistering forehand winner.
‘It was important, after a loss in Madrid, to come back strong,’ the 31-year-old, who received a bye in the opening round, said. ‘And that’s what I did today.
Rafael Nadal got his clay court season back on track to reach the Italian Open last 16
Bosnian Damir Dzumhur was dismissed 6-1, 6-0 by an imperious Nadal on Wednesday
‘I went on court with the right intensity. I don’t know how many mistakes I made, but not many.
‘I also had control, more or less, of a high percentage of the points. That was the way that I want to play.’
The Spaniard can reclaim the world No 1 ranking from Roger Federer if he wins a record-extending eighth title in Rome this week.
Thiem, who finished runner-up in Madrid on Sunday, struggled to find his rhythm in a 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 defeat by Fabio Fognini.
The Spaniard was back to his best as he wrapped up victory with a blistering forehand winner
World No 21 Fognini, backed by a partisan Italian crowd, frustrated Thiem with well-placed lobs and touch volleys and went on to record his first win over the Austrian in three meetings.
Novak Djokovic, a four-time winner in Rome, powered into the third round with a convincing 6-4, 6-2 win over Georgian Nikoloz Basilashvili.
The Serb will have opportunity to reach his first quarter-final of the season on Thursday, when he faces Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas.
Japan’s Kei Nishikori denied Grigor Dimitrov a 27th birthday win to progress to the third round, rallying back from a set down to beat the world No 4 6-7, 7-5, 6-4.
Dominic Thiem smashes his racket in anger on his way to a 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 defeat by Fabio Fognini