BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Top-ranked Rafael Nadal will look to get his clay court season back on track against Albert Ramos at the Barcelona Open after his fellow Spaniard won on Tuesday in the first round.
Ramos beat Nikolay Davydenko of Russia 6-4, 6-4 to set up Wednesday's second-round match against the defending champion and eight-time winner. Nadal was knocked out of the quarterfinals of the preceding Monte Carlo Masters — his earliest exit from the clay court tournament since 2003.
"Rafa is a very difficult rival, he's going to play with a lot of intensity as he's coming off a surprise loss, so I'm sure he'll be motivated," said Ramos, ranked 103rd. "It's going to be tough. I need him to have a bad day and myself a great one to beat him."
Nadal said on Monday that his confidence had dipped since his defeat in the Australian Open final to Stanislaw Wawrinka, although he easily beat Ramos here last season 6-3, 6-0. Nadal has won 39 straight matches on the Barcelona clay.
In second-round play on Tuesday, fourth-seeded Kei Nishikori was a 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 winner over Spain's Roberto Bautista as the Japanese player made a successful return from a groin injury that had sidelined him for one month.
No. 16 Benoit Paire of France was the only seeded player to exit, retiring at 6-4, 5-1 down to Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan.