Rafael Nadal cruised past Israeli Dudi Sela in the second round of the Miami Open on Friday while Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic also enjoyed comfortable victories as the top seeds got underway.
But there was an upset for ninth-seeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, who was beaten by 158th ranked Argentine Guido Pella, and for France’s 11th seeded Lucas Pouille who was defeated by American Donald Young, ranked 51st in the world.
With plenty of backing from the South Florida crowd, Nadal never looked in trouble against the 83rd ranked Sela as he ran out 6-3, 6-4 winner in one hour and 20 minutes.
Rain delays earlier in the day pushed back Nadal’s appearance on court and gusty conditions also made it tricky for the former world number one.
“It has been very tough and long day for everyone I think. Rain delay a couple of times and then the wind was very, very high,” he said. “So it was difficult to find the right feelings but on these kind of days what you have to do is try to win. That’s what I did, and I am very happy with that.”
The Spaniard is looking to win his first Miami title after losing in the final four times in his career.
“I was close enough four times in my career. I am going to try to give myself more chances during this year and during the next couple years. But this tournament is a tough tournament and anything can happen,” he added.
Japanese second seed Nishikori beat big-serving South African Kevin Anderson 6-4, 6-3 on center court and will face Fernando Verdasco of Spain.
Nishikori eyes breakthrough
Nishikori, beaten by Novak Djokovic in last year’s Miami final, didn’t face a break point in the contest and won 88 per cent of his first-serve points.
The 27-year-old said he was looking to make a breakthrough in one of the slams this year and believes a win in Miami could give him the boost in belief that he needs.
“I think if I can win big tournaments like this or some Masters, that’s going to give me a lot of confidence for sure. That’s my next goal, to win the big tournaments,” he said.
“But I think I’m on the right track. I think last year was very solid year. I fought through the whole year without too much injury ... I learned many things from last year,” Nishikori added.
Canada’s Raonic was returning from almost a month on the sidelines due to a right leg injury and enjoyed a 6-3, 7-5 victory over Serbia’s Viktor Troicki. The Canadian was in charge of the opening set and at 3-1 up in the second, it looked all over but Troicki forced things back to level at 5-5 before Raonic got the crucial break.
Intermittent rain and high winds made it tough at times for both players but Raonic said he was glad to get back on court.
“Conditions obviously weren’t ideal but I have to be very happy with just the outcome,” he said adding he was still not in the best shape physically.
“But I’ve put in the work that I can, I have prepared the best I can for this tournament and while I’m not necessarily in the best position right now, fortunately it is a long tournament,” he said.
Dimitrov made 38 unforced errors in his loss to Pella, who showed some great flair from the baseline. Although the Argentine wobbled with a double fault on his first match point up 6-3 in the second-set tie-break, Dimitrov’s backhand on the next point was wide and handed the 26-year-old the win.
Young continued his excellent form with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Pouille. The American, who reached the round of 16 at Indian Wells, where he also beat the Frenchman, is now 12-5 in 2017. He’ll play another Frenchman, Benoit Paire, who beat 21st seed Pablo Cuevas, in the next round.