Tennis

Strong start by Rafael Nadal as David Ferrer bows out

Five-time Madrid champ wins 6-3, 6-3, while Zverev ends home hero's career

Rafael Nadal made a dominant start to the Madrid Open with a comfortable 6-3, 6-3 win over Canadian teenager Felix Auger-Aliassime yesterday morning (Singapore time) to reach the last 16, while unseeded Laslo Djere knocked out Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 2-6, 7-5.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Kei Nishikori and Stan Wawrinka all advanced to the last 16 with straight-set wins, as did Alexander Zverev, who beat home favourite David Ferrer 6-4, 6-1 in the last match of the Spaniard's career.

Ferrer, 37, announced earlier in the year he would end his 19-year career at the Madrid Open and prolonged his time on court by a day by beating Roberto Bautista Agut, but was easily overpowered by world No. 4 Zverev.

He won 27 singles titles, reaching a career-high ranking of third in the world in 2013, when he also reached his only Grand Slam final, losing the French Open showpiece to Nadal.

Nadal, a five-time champion in Madrid, is looking to win a first clay-court title of the season before he begins his French Open title defence.

The Spaniard, who had exited the Monte Carlo Masters and Barcelona Open at the semi-final stage, will face American Frances Tiafoe in the last 16.

"Every match gives me the possibility to go a step forward, a step forward that can help me a lot in my game and during the season," Nadal said.

"I think that today was an important match in that way and tomorrow it's another great opportunity to keep improving my feelings."

In last night's last-16 matches, Novak Djokovic defeated Jeremy Chardy 6-1, 7-6 (7/2) to extend his domination of French opponents.

The Serbian top seed needed less than 90 minutes to reach the quarter-finals, beating Chardy for the 13th time in as many attempts to set up a last-eight meeting with Marin Cilic.

Dominic Thiem, last year's Madrid runner-up who beat Nadal on his way to winning last month's Barcelona Open, also reached the quarter-finals after a 6-4, 7-5 win over Monte Carlos Masters champion Fabio Fognini.

Meanwhile, two-time women's champion Simona Halep overcame Ashleigh Barty 7-5, 7-5 to reach her fourth Madrid Open semi-final.

Romania's third seed and former world No. 1 will next play the winner of the Naomi Osaka- Belinda Bencic match. - REUTERS

Tennis