Nadal, Murray reach third round in Monte Carlo

Rafael Nadal of Spain returns the ball to Jarkko Nieminen of Finland during the Monte Carlo Masters...

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)

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, Last Updated: 12:18 PM ET

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.


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