BARCELONA, Spain — Nearly 14 years after their first meeting as professionals, Rafael Nadal maintained order by beating Spanish countryman Albert Montanes 6-2, 6-2 to make the Barcelona Open quarterfinals on Thursday (Friday, Manila time).
Nadal has yet to drop a set in six tour-level and challenger matches against Montanes. They exchanged early breaks but the top-seeded Nadal soon took control.
Nadal broke serve five times and had 24 winners against only nine for Montanes, a wild card.
"I had a great forehand today and the conditions were much better than yesterday," said Nadal, who was 16 when he beat Montanes for the first time at a challenger in Barcelona.
Coming off his first title of the year at the Monte Carlo Masters last week, Nadal will next face Fabio Fognini of Italy, who defeated eighth-seeded Viktor Troicki of Serbia 6-3, 6-2.
Fognini eliminated Nadal in the third round of Barcelona last year, among his three wins over Nadal in 2015, including a five-setter in the third round at the U.S. Open.
"Tomorrow will be a tough match against Fognini, he beat me three times last year and it was an up and down against him," Nadal said.
Nadal is trying to win his ninth title at the Barcelona Open, and first since 2013. He is on a seven-match winning streak.
Second-seeded Kei Nishikori, the two-time defending champion, advanced to the quarterfinals by beating Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-3, 7-5.
Nishikori lost serve at 5-4 in the second set, but broke back in the following game to eventually clinch the third-round victory. It was his 12th straight win in Barcelona.
Nishikori will play 11th-seeded Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov, who defeated Russian qualifier Karen Khachanov 6-4, 7-5 behind 10 aces.
"It will be a very complicated match," Nishikori said. "He is difficult to play, serves well, and uses the slice a lot. We are very good friends so it will be interesting."
Also, Malek Jaziri converted only two of 12 break points but was able to defeat Alexander Zverev of Germany 7-6 (5), 6-4 to set up a quarterfinal against sixth-seeded Benoit Paire of France, who eliminated ninth-seeded Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay 6-2, 6-4.