Finalist Roger Federer and holder Stan Wawrinka rolled to quick-fire opening wins at the Monte Carlo Masters on Wednesday as clay king Rafael Nadal also joined the Swiss pair with a solid start.
Second seed Federer, a three-time runner-up at the seaside Country Club, took just 54 minutes to dominate Jeremy Chardy 6-2, 6-1 as the Frenchman sent in a pair of double-faults in the penultimate game while Federer advanced with his third ace on match point a game later.
“Jeremy didn’t serve very well, and I felt good on the return,” said the Swiss winner. “So I was in a lot of the service games when he was serving.
“I thought I served well, had a high first serve percentage and was able to control the baseline. On clay, things move ahead very quickly, I must say.
“I’ve had 10 days of clay training and I feel prepared.”
For third seed Nadal, his 6-2, 6-1 second-round success against French wild card Lucas Pouille came as a huge relief after a poor season and just one small South American trophy to hand since winning a ninth Roland Garros title last May.
Preparing my debut in Monte Carlo with amazing views and great company 😉 pic.twitter.com/QEBBejkuEJ
— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) April 15, 2015
“I’m glad to be back here and playing on clay,” said the troubled Spaniard who improved his record here to 51 wins and just three losses as he moved into the third round.
“It was a tough match, but I played little bit better than what I was doing before.
“I played with the right mentality, the right concentration, I didn’t have (a lot of) mistakes in a row. That’s something that happened the last couple months with me.
“Historically I am a (regular) player, I can have mistakes, but not three in a row.
“I am working on that to fix that. Today I fixed it. Today I played solid.”
Nadal never faced a break point while breaking his wild card opponent three times.
The 28-year-old spent 68 minutes in proving that he will not roll over on his preferred surface even after a month of poor hardcourt results and a general lack of confidence after his ranking fell to fifth.
— Roger Federer (@rogerfederer) April 13, 2015
Nadal has not won in Monte Carlo since 2012, going out in the 2013 final to Novak Djokovic and losing in the quarters a year ago to countryman David Ferrer.
Switzerland’s Wawrinka kicked off his week with a 6-1 6-4 defeat of Argentine Juan Monaco in 71 minutes to progress.
He was also glad to get some red dirt in his socks after an indifferent last few months.
“I’m happy to change, to come on clay again. The conditions are great here, so I’m happy with the first match.
“Since I wasn’t playing well in practice, I consider this match as a good one. There were ups and downs, but that’s normal for a first match.
“I’m satisfied with my level physically and mentally. I was able to be aggressive.
“It’s been really difficult over the last two months had two last months (Marseille quarter-final and second and third-round defeats in the US).”
— ATP World Tour (@ATPWorldTour) April 15, 2015
The seventh seed, who lifted his first elite Masters 1000 title in Monaco a year ago as he beat compatriot Roger Federer for the title, spent 71 minutes in getting past Monaco.
Wawrinka will next face ninth seed Grigor Dimitrov, who beat Fabio Fognini 6-3, 6-4.
The 2014 Australian Open winner comes onto the spring clay with a 17-4 match record and titles in Chennai and Rotterdam.
The 30-year-old successfully defended a title for the first time in January, winning Chennai for the second year in a row.
Canadian Milos Raonic, seeded fourth beat Portugal’s Joao Sousa 6-3, 7-6 (7/4), while Czech sixth seed Tomas Berdych beat Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-4, 7-6 (7/2).
Gilles Simon, the number 10, defeated fellow Frenchman Benoit Paire 6-4, 7-5.
World No2 Maria Sharapova will miss Russia’s Fed Cup semi-final with Germany this weekend in Sochi because of a leg injury, the Russian tennis federation announced on Tuesday.
“I was looking forward to my return to Sochi to play in the Fed Cup,” the federation press service quoted Sharapova as saying.
“It could be my life’s first ever experience – to play in the city where I grew up. And I’ve changed my personal schedule in order to play for my country in the semifinal.”
Maria Sharapova pulls out of Fed Cup in hometown of Sochi, due to injury she had in Miami. Big advantage to Germany. H/t @VladasLasitskas
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) April 14, 2015
Five-time Grand Slam title winner said the injury, which she picked up at the WTA tournament at Miami, prevented her from practicing in recent days.
“I need to be in my top form to help my team, to perform at my best in the Fed Cup semi-final. Unfortunately, I was too short of time to recover completely.”
Russian team skipper Anastasia Myskina named Vera Zvonareva, 137th in the WTA rankings, as a replacement for 2012 Olympic silver medallist.
“We were in contact with Maria (Sharapova) and her team. I know that she did her best to recover after an injury to play at Sochi,” Myskina said.
“But currently she’s not ready to play. Nevertheless, I believe in our team. And I’m looking forward to the upcoming semi-final.”
Before the 27-year-old Sharapova’s withdrawal Russia looked favourites to win the semi-final as she has been joined by 25th ranked Svetlana Kuznetsova, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and Elena Vesnina.
Novak Djokovic got away to a 6-1, 6-4 winning start to the clay season yesterday, with the locally-based world No1 pleased with a second-round defeat of Albert Ramos-Vinolas.
Djokovic, who lives a few hundred metres from Court Central at the seaside Country Club, was happy to bring home the straight-set win in less than 90 minutes.
“For a first match on clay, it was pretty good,” said the winner of back-to-back hardcourt Masters 1000 titles in the US.
“I’m happy to have started so strong. I can just take positives from today. Maybe there were a few games where I did drop a little bit with intensity and concentration. But overall was a high quality performance and I’m happy for that.
“The fact that I’m playing at home (helps). I practice in this club over the course of 12 months, hard courts, clay courts, I know people who are doing the courts, I’m friends with them.
“It really is a different and very special feeling. So I’m trying to enjoy it and see how far I can go.”
Djokovic is playing for the 142nd week on the ATP No1 ranking, putting him one week ahead of Rafael Nadal on the top honour. Roger Federer, Monte Carlo second seed, leads that statistical category with the all-time best of 302 weeks in the top spot.
Djokovic is also bidding to become the first player to win the opening three ATP Masters 1000 tournaments of the season after claiming Indian Wells and Miami honours.