Nadal advances, four seeds fall

Madrid, October 19:

Rafael Nadal easily won the opener of his Madrid Masters title defense but all three of last week’s winners on the ATP tour crashed out on Wednesday.

Third-ranked Ivan Ljubicic (Vienna champion), No 5 Nikolay Davydenko (Moscow) and No 7 James Blake (Stockholm) were among six seeds to lose second-round matches.

However, Nadal didn’t drop a serve while hitting 15 winners off American qualifier Mardy Fish’s second serve in a 6-4, 6-2 victory. The world No 2 saved his best for last, breaking Fish in the penultimate game with a no-look crosscourt forehand which left the capacity crowd — including Real Madrid stars David Beckham and Raul — in disbelief.

Ljubicic was undone by Andy Murray 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, Davydenko fell to Joachim Johansson 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-3 and the Swede’s 23 aces, and Blake squandered 3-1 and 6-5 leads in the final set in losing to Kristof Vliegen 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (5).

The 2004 champion, Marat Safin, ousted ninth- seeded Marcos Baghdatis 6-4, 6-3, but 2003 winner Juan Carlos Ferrero was ousted by Robin Soderling of Sweden 6-3, 6-2.

British teenager Murray — one of only two players to beat Roger Federer this year — broke Ljubicic for the second time in the final set to lead 5-3 before winning with his eighth ace. Johansson, a Swede ranked 139th, beat Nadal at Stockholm last week, and surprised Davydenko with 59 winners off his first serve. Blake, who had won his last two tournaments, saw his 14-match winning streak snapped. He’s winless in three visits to the Madrid Masters.

Sodering’s win over Ferrero lined him up a third-round match against top-ranked Federer, and Robby Ginepri of the United States ousted 12th-seeded Mario Ancic of Croatia 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5).

Also, No 10 Fernando Gonzalez converted his only break point in the final set to beat Paradorn Srichaphan of Thailand 7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-4, No 11 Tomas Berdych beat Agustin Calleri of Argentina 7-6 (2), 6-3, No 13 Tommy Haas defeated Dominik Hrbaty of Slovakia 6-3, 7-6 (6), and Novak Djokovic of Serbia beat Richard Gasquet of France 7-6 (2), 1-6, 6-1.