Tennis: Nadal cruises into Barcelona quarters

Spain's Rafael Nadal returns the ball to Spain's Albert Montanes during the ATP Barcelona Open, on April 21, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

BARCELONA (AFP) - Rafael Nadal continued his perfect start to the European clay-court tennis season, by easing past fellow Spaniard Albert Montanes 6-2, 6-2 to reach the quarter-finals of the Barcelona Open on Thursday.

Nadal is looking to equal Argentinian legend Guillermo Vilas' record of 49 clay-court tournament wins and capture a ninth title in the Catalan capital, having claimed the Monte Carlo Masters last week.

The 14-time Grand Slam champion has suffered shock defeats in Barcelona in the past two years. But he looks back close to his best on his favoured surface, as he won eight of the last 10 games to take his career record over the 35-year-old Montanes to 4-0 in just over an hour on court.

Nadal was first on centre court due to a reschedule caused by a morning rain delay, but was much more at ease with conditions having complained of the strong winds during his second-round win over Marcel Granollers on Wednesday.

"It was much nicer today. It was a strange day because it rained all morning but the truth is there is no comparison between today and yesterday," he said.

And the 29-year-old planned to make the most of an early finish with a mid-tournament trip to the cinema.

"I need to do my recovery work as it is the second tournament in a row, last week was a hard week with a lot of long matches and so I'll rest and maybe even go to the cinema."

Nadal will face a much tougher test in the quarter-finals on Friday against Italian 12th seed Fabio Fognini, who overcame Serbia's Viktor Troicki 6-3, 6-2 to reach the last eight.

Fognini dumped Nadal out at the last 16 in Barcelona last year and also inflicted his first-ever Grand Slam defeat after winning the first two sets at the US Open in September.

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