MIAMI (AFP) - Tennis world No.1 Rafael Nadal hammered former No.1 Lleyton Hewitt 6-1, 6-3 on Saturday to reach the third round at the ATP and WTA Miami Masters hard-court tournament.
The top-seeded Spaniard and his veteran Australian opponent took to the court two and a half hours late due to long matches that preceeded them.
But Nadal, who received a first-round bye, ripped through the opening set in 27 minutes and eventually dispatched the double Grand Slam winner in 66 minutes.
"It's great for me to be back after not playing since 2012. I really enjoy it here," he said.
"There was no better way to start my return than with a win like this."
World No.1 Serena Williams and Russian star Maria Sharapova each battled through three sets on Saturday to advance into the fourth round on the women's side.
Nadal next faces Denis Istomin, who beat Dmitry Tursunov 6-7 (8-10), 6-0, 6-3.
He took his sixth win in a row over Hewitt, improving him to 7-4 in their rivalry overall.
"I have the greatest respect for Lleyton," Nadal said. "He's a great example to me and the other players the way he has come back from injuries.
"He always keeps fighting."
Hewitt, who collected his 600th career ATP match win on Thursday, said Nadal was simply too much for him to overcome.
"He hit the ball really clean right from the start," the Australian said. "I hung in there and tried everything I could but he was just too good. Even when I pushed him, he got back into the point."
Serbian second seed and three-time Miami champion Novak Djokovic advanced to the fourth round, when opponent Florian Mayer retired a day before their scheduled match with a groin injury. Djokovic will next play on Tuesday.
Defending champion Williams and last year's runner-up Sharapova struggled mightily to survive, with the Russian five-time finalist requiring nine match points to book her win.
Sharapova beat Czech Lucie Safarova 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2 in a battle which took five minutes short of three hours to complete.
She let out a scream of relief when she finally went through as Safarova's shot hit the net, having missed two chances in the second set to wrap it up early.
Top seed Williams waited out a 45-minute rain third-set interruption before dispatching France's Caroline Garcia 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.
Williams, 32, bidding for a record seventh title at her home tournament, now stands 63-7 at the venue but was far from pleased with her showing.
"Granted she played great, but I made so many errors, I hit so short," said Williams. "It really isn't the same player. I just have to do better.
"It's important to stay positive. Obviously I wasn't at my best. I had 40-something errors. It's not the way to play professional tennis."
Reigning Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka downed Spain's Daniel Gimeno-Traver 6-0, 3-6, 6-3 to reach the men's third round.
Czech seventh seed Tomas Berdych began with a 7-6 (7-5), 6-1 win over Frenchman Stephane Robert, while 10th seed John Isner defeated Donald Young 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 6-4.