Rafa Races Through Opener

Eight-time champion Rafael Nadal claimed his 54th win at the Monte-Carlo Country Club on Wednesday as he defeated Aljaz Bedene 6-3, 6-3 in the second round of the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters.

The Spaniard set an intriguing match-up with 12th seed Dominic Thiem, who beat Nadal when they met in February on clay in the semi-finals in Buenos Aires.

“I’m happy for the victory,” said Nadal. “I know that I have to improve for tomorrow. But I have confidence because I have been practising very well these weeks. Let’s see if I am able to play the way that I was practising. Tomorrow is going to be a tough match against a difficult opponent.

“I expect a tough match. Thiem is a great player, who is having a great season. Clay is probably the best surface for him. I expect a very difficult match. I know to have chances, I have to play very well. I need to do it and I going to try to do it.”

The 29-year-old Nadal is chasing a record-equalling 28th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown this week to draw back level with Novak Djokovic, who overtook the Mallorcan with victories in Indian Wells and Miami last month.

Nadal won a record 46 straight matches in Monte-Carlo as he captured eight successive titles from 2005-12, before his run came to an end in the 2013 final against Novak Djokovic.

His next opponent, Thiem, rallied from a slow start to beat qualifier Taro Daniel 4-6, 6-2, 6-0 in one hour and 43 minutes. The 22-year-old Austrian was the form player on the ATP World Tour in February, winning titles in Buenos Aires and Acapulco, while also reaching the semi-finals in Rio de Janeiro. The right-hander has a 26-6 record on the season.

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