Madrid, Oct 15: Top seed Rafael Nadal survived a stern test by Latvia's Ernests Gulbis at the Madrid Masters on Tuesday while fourth seed Andy Murray barely broke sweat as his second-round Italian opponent Simone Bolelli retired hurt.
World number one Nadal showed his trademark tenacity to win 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 in two hours 22 minutes but it could have been very different had Gulbis, ranked 54, held his nerve better.
The 20-year-old from Riga battled gamely with Nadal in the first set but crumbled at 5-5 with double faults and unforced errors to meekly surrender the opening set.
Gulbis unleashed blistering shots down both sides of the court in the second, showing why he already has the scalps of American James Blake and Chile's Fernando Gonzalez this year.
His forehand was especially punishing for the French and Wimbledon champion to deal with as were a series of cheeky drop shots that helped the Latvian break Nadal and take the set.
But it was the simple shots that ultimately cost Gulbis and after failing to convert a break point against the Spaniard in the third game of the final set, he imploded in the fourth with four unforced errors to effectively hand Nadal the match.
"He played very well in the second set but all the match was very tough because he played very aggressively. You can't get any rhythm. His balls are hit very fast," said Nadal.
The 22-year-old Mallorcan faces 15th seed Richard Gasquet in the third round after the Frenchman beat American Mardy Fish 6-7, 6-4, 6-3 on Tuesday.
Murray had a much easier ride in his first outing since losing to Federer in the US Open final five weeks ago, and was leading 6-0, 2-1 when world number 43 Bolelli quit.
The Italian seemed to injure his shoulder attempting a smash early in the second set and could not battle through the pain although it is unlikely he would have stopped Murray anyway.
Looking fresh and hitting the ball crisply, the Briton refused to yield to Bolelli's onslaught in a thrilling second game and after that Murray blew the Italian away, only losing one point on his own serve in the first set.
"You're still expected to win but if you get off to that good start you can maybe relax and go for your shots a bit more," Murray said.
The Scot now meets towering Croat Marin Cilic after the 20-year-old toppled 13th-seeded Madrid local Fernando Verdasco 6-2, 6-3.
American James Blake, the 11th seed, was bundled out by Frenchman Gilles Simon 3-6, 6-1, 6-4.
Finland's Jarkko Nieminen survived a fightback from Russia's [Images] Mikhail Youzhny to win 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 in his first round match.
Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber, France's Gael Monfils, Sweden's Robin Soderling, American Robby Ginepri, Romania's Victor Hanescu and Marcel Granollers from Barcelona also all made it into the second round.