705904 NadalAFP 1399577856 918 640x480 - Nadal eases into Madrid Masters quarters

MADRID: World number one Rafael Nadal remained on course to retain his Madrid Masters title with a comfortable 6-1, 6-4 win over Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen on Thursday.
Nadal had come into the tournament looking to dispel doubts after suffering shock defeats to David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro in the quarter-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters and the Barcelona Open, respectively.
“I am happy because I think until 3-0 in the second set I played the best I have on clay since I started in Monte Carlo,” said Nadal.
“It’s just a question of finding my rhythm, my level of play and I am doing that little by little. Tomorrow [Friday] will be another tough match and I need to prepare well for that.”
Next up for the 13-time Grand Slam champion is a meeting with sixth seed Tomas Berdych after the Czech came through in three sets against Bulgarian 12th seed Grigor Dimitrov 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Japan’s Kei Nishikori continued his fine form on clay after winning in Barcelona two weeks ago as he outlasted eighth seed Milos Raonic in two tie-breaks 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (7/5).
Serena, Li move into quarters
World number one Serena Williams remained on course for a third consecutive Madrid Open title with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro.
“I played Carla on clay last year, but in Rome,” said Serena.
“She actually played really well today and made me work for every point. It wasn’t an easy win.”
Fifth seed Kvitova was also a winner in straight sets as she overcame Czech compatriot Lucie Safarova 6-4, 6-3.
Second seed Li Na had a more difficult morning as she had to come from a set down to beat 16th seed Sloane Stephens 2-6, 6-3, 6-2. “I think she was hitting the ball like pretty heavy,” admitted Li.
“Normally the girls play flatter and it was my first time playing against her so she caused me problems.”