Nadal’s dream run on

Rome, May 10:

Rafael Nadal won his 48th straight match on clay, beating Carlos Moya 6-1, 2-6, 6-2 in the first round of the Rome Masters on Tuesday. The Spaniard can match Guillermo Vilas’ Open era record 53-match winning streak on the surface if he successfully defends his title.

“The first set was easier than I expected. But it got tougher. He knows me so well,” Nadal said. “When I lost the second set I saw the phantom of Miami.”

Guillermo Coria continued a seasonlong slump in a 6-3, 6-2 loss to 93rd-ranked Ruben Ramirez Hidalgo of Spain. Besides Moya — the 1998 French Open winner — two other former Roland Garros champions were also eliminated. Gaston Gaudio, the 2004 French titleholder, was beaten 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 by Belgium’s Xavier Malisse, and Juan Carlos Ferrero, who won the claycourt major in 2003, bowed out 6-1, 6-3 to France’s Paul-Henri Mathieu.

First-round winners included David Nalbandian, No 5 Andy Roddick, No 6 Nikolay Davydenko, No 14 Radek Stepanek and Tim Henman.

A large Foro Italico crowd with high expectations of the clash between Nadal and Moya began to groan after Nadal won the first set and perked up when Moya forced a third.

Nadal broke for 2-0, and saved two break points at 4-2 to finally end Moya’s resistance. Nadal, who considers Moya a mentor, leads their head-to-head 3-2. “That was a very important moment in the game,” Nadal said. He will face either British No 1 Andy Murray or Italian No 1 Filippo Volandri in the second round.