* Djokovic satisfied with clay debut
* Nadal eases past Nieminen
* Ferrer suffers early exit
(Adds quotes, details)
By Gregory Blachier
MONTE CARLO, April 18 Rafa Nadal gave his
troublesome knees a quick outing on Wednesday as the Spaniard
launched his bid for a record eighth successive Monte Carlo
Masters title with a 6-4 6-3 win over Finland's Jarkko Nieminen.
The 10-times grand slam champion was joined in the third
round of the season's first big claycourt tournament by world
number one Novak Djokovic, who thrashed Italian Andreas Seppi
It was not all smooth sailing for the Spaniards though as
last year's finalist David Ferrer, the fifth seed, suffered a
shock 6-3 6-2 loss to Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci.
Nadal resumed full training last week after a right knee
injury forced him to pull out of his semi-final clash with Andy
Murray in Miami.
Though he struggled to produce his dazzling claycourt game
during a cloudy afternoon, he showed ill-effect of the injury as
he recorded his 40th win at the chic Mediterranean venue, where
he has been unbeaten since 2005.
"I believe that I played a really normal match, nothing
special. Nothing very bad, but nothing very good," Nadal told a
With tennis great Bjorn Borg watching on, Nadal easily
frustrated Nieminen with his range of brutal forehand shots.
The second seed, who is hoping to win a seventh Roland
Garros trophy and thus break the record he shares with Borg when
the French Open begins next month, will next play Kazakhstan
qualifier Mikhail Kukushkin.
Serbia's Djokovic, who is chasing Nadal's French Open crown
after winning the last three grand slam events, had a flying
start to go 4-0 up but was less impressive afterwards and needed
88 minutes to edge out Seppi.
Djokovic easily grabbed the first set but was made to work a
little harder in the second as Seppi, who had lost their six
previous ties, played more aggressively.
"For the first official match (on clay) since Roland Garros
last year, it's satisfying," Djokovic told reporters.
"We had a couple of long games but I served very well when I
The top seed will take on 16th seed Alexandr Dolgopolov, who
beat Australian teenager Bernard Tomic 6-2 5-7 6-1.
Djokovic, who beat the unpredictable Ukrainian in straight
sets at last year's U.S. Open, said the threat would be bigger
this time as clay favoured Dolgopolov's game.
"You expect the unexpected from him," Djokovic said.
"He comes up with some drop shots, he changes the pace very
much. That's why he's very dangerous on clay, which is a slower
surface and gives him more time to come up with his shots."
The unexpected happened on the central court as Bellucci
destroyed world number six David Ferrer, who arrived in Monte
Carlo with three titles and a 24-3 win-loss record this season.
The left-handed Brazilian, who was hammered in straight sets
by Ferrer in their three previous ties, harassed the Spaniard
with a combination of powerful forehands and defensive
"It was difficult mentally, physically, I played a lot of
matches and I am a bit exhausted," a dejected Ferrer said.
Czech Tomas Berdych moved past Croatia's Marin Cilic 7-6
6-1, while eighth-seeded Spaniard Nicolas Almagro defeated
Italian Potito Starace by the same score.
Serb Janko Tipsarevic, the seventh seed, advanced after
beating Spaniard Albert Montanes 6-2 6-3 and will next face
Frenchman Gilles Simon, who hammered Federico Gil 6-3 6-0.
France's Julien Benneteau recovered from a break down in
each set to upset 15th seed Juergen Melzer 6-4 6-3 to set up a
third-round tie with Andy Murray.
(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)