MADRID – World number one Rafael Nadal shrugged off his moans over blue courts and high altitude on Wednesday to reach the Madrid Masters third round with a 6-3, 6-1 mauling of Austria's Jurgen Melzer.
The top seed, who criticised initial plans to use blue clay, the 500m altitude, which was speeding up the ball, as well as the organisation of this combined ATP and WTA event, came out and did what he does best.
"I did well today, I'm very happy with this match," said Nadal. "I"m very pleased with how I've started the tournament. It's always a special pleasure to play in Spain.
"I played much better than I trained."
Top seed Nadal, winner of his last 31 matches on clay, had just three unforced errors in the rout of Melzer and will now face Germany's Philip Kohlschreiber on Thursday
The German knocked out Croatia's 13th seed Marin Cilic in a 6-1, 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/2) marathon which took just under three hours to complete.
Third seed Novak Djokovic demanded mid-match claycourt repairs on the way to an opening 6-3, 6-3 victory over Oscar Hernandez.
The third seed was furious as he lost his footing early in the second set against the journeyman Spaniard.
Djokovic complained to the chair umpire, who immediately summoned grounds crews with shovels and rakes to repair the suspect areas of the court.
"I was aware that the surface was quite wet when they were watering the court after the set and I was thinking that something could happen," said the Serbian.
"But I didn't realy believe anything could happen. I guess I was lucky that I fell in the right way and it wasn't a major injury."
The rest of the second-round contest went off without incident, though the Serbian did need multiple match points to finally put down the 31-year-old clay-courter who has never played an ATP final.
Djokovic, fresh from winning the inaugural edition of his family-financed Serbia Open, broke on three of a dozen occasions against number 65 Hernandez and never faced a break point himself.
Djokovic, down to fourth in the world after being overhauled this week by Andy Murray, next plays Italian Andreas Seppi, a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 winner over American Sam Querrey.
"It really motivates me even more to get back to the third spot or even go a step further," said the Serbian of his rankings fall.
"I try not to pay too much attention to rankings. But playing three Masters Series finals in a row (Miami, Monte Carlo, Rome) and winning a 250 event (Belgrade) is incredible success even if you are dropping a spot in the rankings.
"That shows how cruel the ranking system is in this sport."
Fifth seed Juan Martin Del Potro advanced as Czech Tomas Berdych quit trailing 6-2, 4-1, with the South American set for a repeat of a Rome showdown against Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka.
Number eight Gilles Simon of France defeated Fabio Fognini of Italy 6-3, 6-2, with 11th seed Wawrinka dispatching Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-4, 7-5.
Estoril runner-up James Blake defeated Ivo Karlovic 6-7 (4/7), 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) despite 26 aces from the Croatian.
In the women's event, seventh seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus beat China's Peng Shuai 6-4, 6-1 while Russia's Vera Dushevina ousted Italy's Francesca Schiavone 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.
Sixth seed Svetlana Kusnetsova, finalist in the last two WTA events, was bundled out by Alona Bondarenko of the Ukraine 6-3, 6-2.