|Rafael Nadal of Spain returns the ball to Jarkko Nieminen of Finland during the Monte Carlo Masters tennis tournament in Monaco April 13, 2011. (REUTERS/Eric Gaillard)
MONTE CARLO, Monaco -- Six-time reigning champion Rafael Nadal and Australian Open runner-up Andy Murray were among Wednesday's second- round winners at the $3.63 million Monte Carlo Masters tennis event.
The world No. 1 Nadal won his 35th straight match at the prestigious Monte Carlo Country Club by leveling helpless Finnish veteran Jarkko Nieminen 6-2, 6-2 on Day 4. The mighty Spaniard cruised in 69 minutes, without allowing even one break-point chance.
"Today was a positive start," Nadal said. "I think I played better than what I practiced the last days, so that's always positive."
The 24-year-old Nadal, who is the all-time leader with 18 Masters titles, was the runner-up to high-flying Serb Novak Djokovic at the first two ATP Masters events of the year at Indian Wells and Miami.
Nadal hasn't lost in Monte Carlo since he was a 16-year-old back in 2003. He did not play here in 2004.
The reigning U.S. Open, Wimbledon and French Open champion Nadal beat Fernando Verdasco in last year's all-Spanish finale here.
Nadal's third-round opponent on Thursday will be 13th-seeded French crowd favorite Richard Gasquet, who has never beaten the Spaniard in seven previous tries.
"What I must do is stay relaxed and try to play without hesitation and not be afraid to go for my shots," Gasquet said.
A third-seeded Murray, meanwhile, put an end to his recent futility by handling Czech wild card Radek Stepanek 6-1, 6-4. The Brit had lost his last four matches, including a setback at the hands of Djokovic in January's Aussie Open finale.
Murray will encounter 16th-seeded Frenchman Gilles Simon on Thursday.
Fourth-seeded Spaniard David Ferrer whipped compatriot Feliciano Lopez 6-2, 6-0, while a sixth-seeded Verdasco will not make a return trip to the final here after succumbing to former top-10 fellow Spaniard Tommy Robredo 6-4, 6-3.
In other top-10 seed play, No. 7 Jurgen Melzer of Austria overcame Dutchman Robin Haase 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, No. 8 flashy Frenchman Gael Monfils, playing his first tennis in two months, topped Spaniard Daniel Gimeno-Traver 7-5, 6-2, and No. 9 Spaniard Nicolas Almagro outlasted Argentine qualifier Maximo Gonzalez 6-7 (6-8), 7-5, 7-6 (12-10) in a three-hour marathon.
In other action involving seeds, No. 11 Serb Viktor Troicki held off Italian Fabio Fognini 6-3, 4-6, 6-4; Gasquet grounded Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-2, 6-1; No. 15 Croat Marin Cilic beat Spanish qualifier Pere Riba 5-2, retired; and Simon subdued Spain's Albert Montanes.
No less than 10 Spaniards saw action on Wednesday, going 4-6.
One other Wednesday result saw Portuguese qualifier Frederico Gil best German Florian Mayer 7-5, 6-1.
Second-seeded former world No. 1 Roger Federer, a three-time Monte Carlo runner-up to his great rival Nadal, will take to the courts here on Thursday for a third-rounder against Cilic.
This year's Monte Carlo champ will collect $625,000.