Rome: Rafael Nadal eased into the last-16 of the Italian Open on Tuesday when his second-round opponent Nicolas Almagro retired after sustaining a knee injury early in the first set.
Nadal, who is the clear tournament favourite and looks to be in the form of his life on clay this season, raced into a 3-0 lead before Spanish compatriot Almagro felt his left knee with less than half an hour played.
Nadal is seeded fourth in Rome, where he is bidding for a record eighth title to go with his recent successes in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid, and will meet either the Czech Republic’s Jiri Vesely or American Jack Sock in the next round.
Japan’s Kei Nishikori, the number seven seed, beat Spaniard David Ferrer 7-5 6-2 earlier in the day and will play either Britain’s Kyle Edmund or Argentine Juan Martin del Potro in the last 16.
World number one Angelique Kerber crashed out, the top seed beaten 6-4 6-0 in the second round by Anett Kontaveit of Estonia.
The German’s 56-minute knock out came two days after she was confirmed at the top of the WTA rankings, displacing Serena Williams after making it to the third round at last week’s Madrid Open.
The defeat demonstrated more of the patchy and inconsistent form which the 29-year-old cannot seem to shake off since starting to duel with Williams at the top of the WTA listings last season.
Defending champion and World No 1 Andy Murray was, meanwhile, swept aside by home favourite Fabio Fognini on Tuesday, being completely outplayed in a 6-2 6-4 defeat.
Only a late spell of resistance when he reeled off three games at 1-5 in the second set kept the scoreline respectable as the British player’s worrying slump in form continued ahead of this month’s French Open.
An inspired Fognini, whose wife, former US Open champion Flavia Pennetta, is expecting their first child this week, thumped 31 winners in his first victory over a world number one.
Murray has won only five of his last 10 matches but while he continues to search for some spark in a lacklustre claycourt season, Novak Djokovic, the man he usurped as world number one last November, is finding his just in time for Roland Garros.
The Serb built on last week’s encouraging showing in Madrid to beat qualifier Aljaz Bedene 7-6(2) 6-2 in his opening match.
Djokovic has struggled for form this year and recently split with his entire coaching staff but his game looked in good order against Bedene on Court Centrale in Rome.
He was pushed hard in the opening set by 55th-ranked Bedene and had to recover an early service break but he stepped on the gas in the second set to cruise through to the third round.
“A little bit of a slow start, but Bedene is the kind of player that gives you good rhythm,” world number two Djokovic, beaten in the Madrid semis by Rafael Nadal, said.
Men’s Singles (Round 2): 16-Alexander Zverev (Germany) beat Viktor Troicki (Serbia) 6-3 6-4 Juan Martin Del Potro (Argentina) beat Kyle Edmund (Britain) 7-5 6-4 4-Rafa Nadal (Spain) beat Nicolas Almagro (Spain) 3-0 (Almagro retired)/s7-Kei Nishikori (Japan) beat David Ferrer (Spain) 7-5 6-2
Women’s Singles (Round 2): Anett Kontaveit (Estonia) beat 1-Angelique Kerber (Germany) 6-4 6-0 Julia Goerges (Germany) beat Jelena Jankovic (Serbia) 2-6 7-6(2) 6-1 Daria Gavrilova (Australia) beat Caroline Garcia (France) 7-5 3-6 6-3 12-Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (Russia) beat Anastasija Sevastova (Latvia) 7-6(4) 6-2/s2-Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic) beat Lauren Davis (U.S.) 6-1 6-1 8-Elina Svitolina (Ukraine) beat Alize Cornet (France) 6-4 7-6 (11) 6-Simona Halep (Romania) beat Laura Siegemund (Germany) 6-4 6-4 Mona Barthel (Germany) beat Wang Qiang (China) 6-3 6-4 15-Kiki Bertens (Netherlands) beat Catherine Bellis (U.S.) 6-4 6-0.