Rafael Nadal overcomes strong rally to reach Monte Carlo Masters third round
Defending champion Rafael Nadal has withstood a determined comeback from Britain's Kyle Edmund to win 6-0 5-7 6-3 in the second round of the Monte Carlo Masters.
The fourth-seeded Nadal is aiming for a 10th title in Monte Carlo and appeared to be coasting until Edmund found his range with huge forehands in the match on Wednesday (NZT Thursday).
The third set was intense, with three straight breaks of serve from 2-2, until the nine-time French Open champion drew on his vastly superior experience on clay.
The Spaniard's relief was evident when he secured victory on his first match point.
After Edmund patted a return into the net, Nadal tilted his head back and raised his arms in the air. The next match could be tough, too. He faces 14th-seeded Alexander Zverev, the 19-year-old German who pushed him to five sets in the third round at this year's Australian Open.
Nadal is looking for this first title of the year after losing in three finals - including defeats to Roger Federer at the Australian Open and the Miami Open. He will not be able to get his revenge on Federer here, since the 18-time Grand Slam champion is skipping the tournament. Federer is playing very little on clay before his bid for another Wimbledon title.
Earlier top-ranked Andy Murray returned from an elbow injury to beat Gilles Muller of Luxembourg 7-5 7-5.
The right elbow injury prompted Murray to withdraw from last month's Miami Open and he also missed Britain's recent quarterfinal loss to France in the Davis Cup.
"Missing Miami was a shame because it's one of my favorite ones, but I needed it,'' Murray said.
"Sometimes having a break, if you're feeling tired or fatigued is great. But when you're playing really well and winning, you don't think so much about fatigue.''
Murray looked a bit sluggish early on, dropping serve in the opening game. He saved two set points in the ninth but then broke and held to love to move 6-5 up.
"The first service game was obviously not ideal, but when you are coming back from not serving for a few weeks that's normal,'' Murray said.
"My elbow's always a bit sore, that's nothing to do with this week or the last two years.''
Murray's enforced absence at least gave him the added bonus of spending more time with his wife and young daughter.
"Sometimes it's tricky for the tennis players because of how much we travel and the schedule can be difficult,'' he said.
"I've spent a lot of time with my family, which I've enjoyed ... and which hopefully they have as well.''
Murray took the first set on Muller's serve when, having done well to retrieve two drop shots from his opponent, Muller missed an easy smash at the net. He whacked his racket against his shoe in frustration and then smashed it on the ground, buckling it in half.
Murray dropped serve again in the opening game of the second set but broke straight back. He set up a match point with an excellent backhand cross-court winner as he retrieved a shot deep into the court, and clinched victory when Muller hit a forehand wide. He next plays 15th-seeded Albert Ramos-Vinolas of Spain.
Former champion Stan Wawrinka, who won here in 2014, broke Czech player Jiri Vesely's serve five times in a 6-2 4-6 6-2 win, while ninth-seeded Tomas Berdych, the runner-up in 2015, rallied to beat 39-year-old German Tommy Haas 3-6 6-1 6-4.
Fifth-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia won 6-3, 6-0 against Jeremy Chardy; sixth-seeded Dominic Thiem of Austria downed Dutchman Robin Haase 6-3 6-2; No 11 Lucas Pouille of France beat Paolo Lorenzi 6-2 6-4; No 13 Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain won 6-4 6-4 against Karen Khachanov; Zverev broke Feliciano Lopez's serve five times in a 6-0 6-4 win, and Ramos-Vinolas won 6-2 6-2 against Argentine Carlos Berlocq.