BANGKOK, Thailand -- World No. 1 superstar Rafael Nadal eased into the quarterfinals, while his fellow Spanish lefthander Fernando Verdasco suffered a second-round setback Thursday at the Thailand Open tennis event.
The reigning U.S. Open, Wimbledon and French Open champion Nadal handled Belgian qualifier Ruben Bemelmans 6-1, 6-4 on the hardcourts at Impact Arena. Nadal held his serve throughout and moved on in 71 minutes to record his 60th match win of the year (60-7).
This marks Nadal's first action since he won the U.S. Open to become the first man in 41 years to capture three straight Grand Slam titles in one calendar year.
The 24-year-old Nadal arrived in Thailand to a hero's welcome last week, as he was greeted by government and sports officials when he landed in Bangkok.
Nadal's quarterfinal opponent here on Friday will be Russian Mikhail Kukushkin, who outlasted diminutive Belgian Olivier Rochus 6-4, 5-7, 6-3. Rochus upset fifth-seeded former U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro in the opening round here on Tuesday.
The second-seeded Verdasco, meanwhile, dropped his first match of the week when German Benjamin Becker sent him packing in 6-4, 6-4 fashion.
Another upset came when Finnish veteran Jarkko Nieminen upended seventh-seeded Serbian Viktor Troicki 7-6 (7-4), 6-2.
Friday's other quarterfinals will pit third-seeded Austrian Jurgen Melzer against Nieminen, fourth-seeded Latvian Ernests Gulbis versus Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Becker against Daniel Brands in an all-German affair.
The winner of this $608,500 tournament will claim $99,725.