Tennis: Nadal back in the groove
If the crust shifted a touch beneath the foundations of the Foro Italico in Rome on Tuesday, the clay-court plates were back in place yesterday as Rafael Nadal won the 160th of the 166 matches he has played on the surface in the past five years.
World number one Roger Federer is still performing here in the doubles but that does not seem quite the same.
While Federer -- who accompanied Yves Allegro, his Swiss compatriot, into the last eight in the doubles of the BNL D'Italia Masters yesterday -- had played with a bewildering nonchalance in his shock three-set defeat to Ernests Gulbis of Latvia in his opening singles match, Nadal never does anything on a court at less than the height of business-like, bushy-tailed commitment.
The Spaniard's opponent, Philipp Kohlschreiber, danced around a subdued Andy Murray in Monte Carlo two weeks ago but there was nothing in the German's armoury to leave the slightest dent in Nadal's defences.
"I played safe and correct," Nadal said of his 6-1, 6-4 victory, which takes him into a third-round meeting today against Victor Hanescu of Romania.
Fifth seed Robin Soderling was also largely untroubled as he beat local wild card Paolo Lorenzi 6-1 7-5. Fresh from reaching the final in Barcelona last week, the Swede -- runner-up in the French Open last year -- needed just 74 minutes to progress.
There was disappointment for Australian Lleyton Hewitt as he slumped to a 6-2 6-3 defeat at the hands of Guillermo Garcia-Lopez. There were also straight-sets wins for Filippo Volandri and Santiago Giraldo, over Frenchmen Julien Benneteau and Michael Llodra.
Meanwhile, there was a spring in Murray's step as he marched out to practise one pace behind Alex Corretja, the Spaniard who is in charge of his preparation and practice this week while Miles Maclagan, Murray's permanent coach, refuels for the stretch from Paris through to Wimbledon's completion.
There is no sense, Murray insists, in having two men talking to him and getting mixed messages. "They both see my game the same way and they both have the same beliefs in what you have to do when you go out on the court," Murray said.
"It's just about fighting hard and giving 100pc, and if you do that, the outcome is irrelevant." (© The Times, London)