PARIS (Reuters) - If Rafa Nadal was looking for an opponent to help him find his Roland Garros rhythm, Nicolas Almagro was the perfect candidate.
The nine-times French Open champion reached the third round on Thursday with a 6-4 6-3 6-1 victory -- his fourth without dropping a set against his Spanish compatriot on the Paris clay as his campaign picked up momentum.
“My objective is to keep on doing what I did today. My match was a good match,” Nadal, who hit only 16 unforced errors in a dominant display, told a news conference.
“I will try and continue on the same tracks. That is, I will gain power. That’s what I want and continue to be stable and solid and I hope I can roll out my plan.”
Nadal, chasing a record-extending 10th title here, was tested by Almagro, who slumped to 154th in the rankings after a foot injury, but the Mallorcan had just too much strength.
The 28-year-old Nadal arrived in Paris on the back of his worst season on European clay, but he is beginning to look a little more like his old self.
He tightened his game every time Almagro threatened, seeing off six of seven break points and wrapped up viciory when he forced his opponent to return a powerful forehand wide on the first match point.
Sixth seed Nadal, who now has a 68-1 French Open record, will face Russian Andrey Kuznetsov in the next round.
Nadal faced a break point in his first service game on court Philippe Chatrier, but saved it with an ace and followed with a break on the next game with a crosscourt backhand winner.
He broke in the first game of the second set, which he bagged on his opponent’s serve when Almagro sent a forehand wide after Nadal brilliantly defended the point.
Having lost seven games in a row, Almagro, who has now lost 13 of his 14 encounters with Nadal, held for 5-1, but his fate had already been sealed.
Almagro would have been forgiven for not having much hope before the match as he lost in straight sets to Nadal in the French Open quarter-finals in 2008, 2010 and 2012.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Martyn Herman