ROME • Rafael Nadal eased into the last 16 of the Italian Open yesterday, after his second-round opponent Nicolas Almagro retired after suffering a knee injury early in the first set.
The Spaniard, who is the clear tournament favourite and looks to be in the form of his life on clay this season, raced into a 3-0 lead before his compatriot hurt his left knee with less than half an hour played.
Nadal is seeded fourth in Rome, where he is bidding for a record eighth title to go with his recent successes in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid. He will meet either the Czech Republic's Jiri Vesely or American Jack Sock in the next round.
Japan's Kei Nishikori, the No. 7 seed, beat Spaniard David Ferrer 7-5, 6-2 earlier in the day and will play Argentinian Juan Martin del Potro in the last 16.
World No. 1 Andy Murray is unsure what caused his recent slump after his title defence ended with a 6-2, 6-4 defeat by home favourite Fabio Fognini in the second round on Tuesday.
The Scot had his most successful season on clay last year, winning one out of three finals, but has seen his fortunes on the surface reverse with the loss to Fognini marking three unsuccessful clay tournaments in a row.
"I wasn't creating enough chances on my own," he told the ATP website. "The only chance I really got was when he was making errors."
The 30-year-old was particularly unhappy with his movement on the court. "Movement the last two weeks has not been good," he said. "So I need to address that."
The Briton also said his No. 1 ranking had nothing to do with his performances. "I'm just not playing well and I don't think it's to do with my ranking," he said.
Next up for him is the French Open that starts next week.
In women's play, 68th-ranked Estonian Anett Kontaveit stunned top seed and world No. 1 Angelique Kerber 6-4, 6-0.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE