Top seed Rafael Nadal defeated Argentinian Juan Monaco 6-4 6-4 to reach the quarterfinals at the Argentina Open in Buenos Aires. Nadal struggled at times, but fought his way past his good friend to keep his title defense alive. Nadal and Monaco's meeting was a rematch of last year's Buenos Aires final, where the Spaniard came out on top. Monaco played his first match since Kitzbuhel 2015, due to right wrist surgery in August.
Nadal Battles Through First Set
Nadal raced out to a quick 2-0 lead, but was broken in the next game to leave the score at 2-1. Both players held serve from there until the 8th game of the match, when the Spaniard broke Monaco to go up 5-3. Serving for the set, Monaco broke Nadal and put the set back on serve at 5-4. With the Argentine serving, Nadal would break back to take the set 6-4.
Nadal Fights Through Topsy-Turvy Second Set
Unlike the first set, the second set was much less straightforward. After both players held for 1-1, the Argentine broke Nadal, and put himself up 2-1. Both players again held once to get the match to 3-2, before the Spaniard broke for 3-3. Nadal then held easily for 4-3, consolidating his break in the previous game. The 14-time Grand Slam champion then called for the trainer. The medical staff gave Nadal no treatment, but he did receive medication of some sort. Nadal continued on with both players again holding serve once to set the score at 5-4. With Monaco serving to stay in the match. the Argentine faltered and Nadal pounced as he broke to win the match 6-4, 6-4.
Nadal Behind The Numbers
Nadal served very well throughout the match, making 84 percent of first serves and winning 63 percent of his first serve points. With the first serve working well, Nadal was less successful on second serve points. He would only win 40 percent there. The Spaniard also returned well, breaking Monaco five times and winning 63 percent of the break point chances.
Nadal's Difficult Start To 2016
After a promising end to 2015 for the Spaniard, Nadal has had a puzzling start to 2016. He made the final in Doha before getting trounced by Novak Djokovic. He would lose his first round match in Melbourne to unseeded countryman Fernando Verdasco. That was only the lefty's second first round exit at a major, after previously being bounced for the first time by big serving Czech Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon in 2012. The first round loss is Nadal's third consecutive early loss at a major. He lost in the second round at Wimbledon to Dustin Brown last year and in the third round at the U.S. Open to Italian Fabio Fognini.
Up Next For Nadal
In the quarterfinals, Nadal is set to battle Italian Paolo Lorenzi. Nadal and Lorenzi have met once, with Nadal getting the win in Lorenzi's native Rome in three sets in 2011. Lorenzi, ranked number 52, is a veteran of the tour and has acheived most of his success on clay.