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Spain's Rafael Nadal in action against US' Darwin Blanch during the Madrid Open at Caja Magica on Thursday. Image Credit: AFP

Madrid: Rafael Nadal breezed to a straight sets victory over 16-year-old Darwin Blanch to reach the Madrid Open second round on Thursday as he began his farewell appearance in the Spanish capital.

The 37-year-old said this week he was not fully fit but demolished his American opponent 6-1, 6-0 in one hour and three minutes as he continues his comeback from injury.

Nadal, a 22-time Grand Slam champion, is expecting 2024 to be his final season in tennis and this his last appearance at the Madrid Open.

He made his first competitive appearance since January at the Barcelona Open last week, where he was defeated in the second round by Alex de Minaur.

The Australian will be Nadal’s second round opponent in Madrid too as the Spaniard tries to find form and fitness ahead of Rome and then the French Open, where he is the record 14-time winner.

“I am hoping to do as well as possible and I hope to be competitive against De Minaur,” said Nadal.

“For me it has always been a pleasure to play in front of you all ... the support I’ve received here since the first time I played is hard to compare to anywhere else, so I can only say thank you.”

Nadal broke in the second game against the overpowered and initially overawed American, ranked 1,028th in the world.

Blanch got on the board in the fourth game but Nadal broke again in the sixth after the youngster drove a forehand into the net.

Blanch saved two break points at the start of the second set but Nadal converted the third to take further control.

The merciless tennis great broke again after an entertaining rally for a 3-0 lead and once more when Blanch went long to make it 5-0.

Nadal served it out, triumphing on his second match point with a powerful serve that Blanch could not control.

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Russia's Liudmila Samsonova shakes hands with Japan's Naomi Osaka after winning their round of 64 match. Image Credit: Reuters

Big difference

Liudmila Samsonova brought former world No 1 Naomi Osaka’s return to clay to a halt in the second round on Thursday with a 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 victory.

Elsewhere, American Coco Gauff sailed through to the third round with a 6-0, 6-0 thumping of Arantxa Rus.

Four-time Grand Slam champion Osaka twice battled back from a break down in the second set to force a decisive third but world No 17 Samsonova eventually ground out the victory.

Japanese star Osaka returned to tennis in January after a long break and earned her first victory on clay for two years on Wednesday against Greet Minnen.

However Russian 15th seed Samsonova, whom Osaka beat at Indian Wells in March, was able to end a four-match losing streak with her victory in two hours 22 minutes in the Spanish capital.

Hard-court expert Osaka, 26, is not overly fond of the red dirt and has not won back-to-back matches on the surface since 2019.

She lost last week at the Rouen Open in France against Martina Trevisan in her first match back on clay but improved this week.

“I felt — I don’t want to say happy — I felt good that I was able to fight back,” said Osaka.

“I think it’s a big difference from my match in France, so I was happy that I learned from that match, but obviously really sad that I lost.”

Samsonova raced into a 4-0 first set lead, breaking in the first and third games as Osaka struggled.

“Honestly, it’s not the sliding part for me, it’s the touch,” said Osaka.

“I feel like I’m getting the balls, I’m just not really placing them well.”

After recovering an early break Osaka was broken again in the fifth game and Samsonova took a 4-2 lead. However Osaka battled back and won the next four games to take the set.

In the decider the players exchanged breaks before Osaka eventually blinked in the 11th game, with Samsonova wrapping up victory on serve. She will face Madison Keys in the next round.

Gauff, 20, romped to a ‘double bagel’ triumph in only 51 minutes against her 33-year-old Dutch opponent Rus.

The American saved four break points in the match to become the third player ever to win 6-0, 6-0 in the Madrid Open main draw.

World No 3 Gauff will face Ukraine’s Dayana Yastremska in the third round.

Later Thursday world No 1 and last year’s runner-up in Madrid, Iga Swiatek, faces China’s Wang Xiyu.