Rafael Nadal fended off Kei Nishikori to reach the quarter-finals of the Barcelona Open along with the in-form Stefanos Tsitsipas on Thursday.

Top seed Nadal secured an opening-set bagel in just 30 minutes, but Nishikori hit back to force a decider before the 20-time grand slam champion prevailed 6-0 2-6 6-2.

Nishikori hit only three winners as he was blown away in the first set, but broke twice in the second to ensure Nadal was taken to three sets in back-to-back matches for the first time in this tournament – having overcome Ilya Ivashka in the second round.

The world number three saved three break points from 0-40 down in the final set and Nishikori saw another two come and go, with a more clinical Nadal breaking twice to advance.

Nadal will now face unseeded Brit Cameron Norrie, who also won the first set 6-0 and was 5-3 down to David Goffin in the second when the Belgian retired due to a leg injury.

Newly-crowned Monte Carlo Masters champion Tsitsipas defeated Alex de Minaur 7-5 6-3, stretching his straight-sets winning streak to seven matches.

Next up for the second seed is a meeting with Felix Auger-Aliassime, who beat fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov 6-2 6-3, while Jannik Sinner beat Roberto Bautista Agut 7-6 (11-9) 6-2.

Andrey Rublev, Diego Schwartzman and Pablo Carreno Busta also made it through.

Two seeds fell in the Serbia Open, with Federico Delbonis taking out Dusan Lajovic 6-3 2-6 6-4 and Taro Daniel defeating John Millman 3-6 6-2 6-3.

Gianluca Mager moved into the quarter-finals at the expense of Alexei Popyrin and Aslan Karatsev battled past Aljaz Bedene 6-3 4-6 7-6 (7-5) in Belgrade.

Rafael Nadal's bid to win a 12th Monte Carlo Masters title got off to an emphatic start as the Spaniard swept Federico Delbonis aside after Novak Djokovic had also booked his passage to the third round.

Nadal, 34, has won the competition more times than anyone else in its history and looked in good shape as he returned to the court for the first time since losing to Stefano Tsitsipas in the Australian Open quarter-finals on February 17.

He needed just 81 minutes to get past the Argentinian qualifier 6-1 6-2 as he improved his record in the tournament to 72-5, breaking Delbonis' serve five times and only dropping his own once.

He is not getting carried away, however, with Grigor Dimitrov likely to provide a sterner test in the next round after beating Jeremy Chardy 7-6 (7-3) 6-4.

"It was solid match, I think. Of course, a very positive result. He's a good player on clay. [It was a] positive start for me," Nadal said in his post-match interview.

"I think I just really played a solid match. Nothing unbelievable, but nothing wrong. Just a solid match, a positive start. I think I did what I had to do."

On Dimitrov, Nadal added: "We've had some great matches. In Melbourne, of course... we played another great match in Beijing, another one in Shanghai. He's a good friend, a good guy, and a great player. It's going to be a tough test in my second round.

"It's going to be his third. I need to be ready for it. I hope to be ready for it. I am just excited to play a tough match very early in the tournament."

A little earlier in the day, world number one Djokovic was in a similarly unforgiving mood as he overcame the potentially tricky obstacle of Jannik Sinner, the Serbian and two-time Monte Carlo champion winning 6-4 6-2.

Like Nadal, Djokovic was back in action for the first time since the Australian Open – which he won – and appeared fresh as he gave the promising young Italian something of a lesson in game management, reaching 10 matches unbeaten at the start of a season for the sixth time.

"It feels great [to be back and] also playing in Monaco, where I reside," Djokovic said. "I have used this club as a training base for almost 15 years, so it feels like playing at home."

Despite the rather commanding nature of his win, Djokovic was keen to pay tribute to the 19-year-old Sinner, adding: "It was a very good encounter. I thought it was a great first match [and] a big challenge for me. Jannik is in form. He played the final [in] Miami and has been playing well. I just hung in there today and managed to find the right shots and the right game at the right time.

"He has got a lot of talent and he has proven that he is the future of our sport. Actually, he is already the present of our sport. He played a final [in an] ATP Masters 1000 [tournament] already. He is making big strides in professional tennis."

Dan Evans awaits Djokovic after an impressive 6-4 6-1 win over Miami champion Hubert Hurkacz, while Alexander Zverez and Andrey Rublev – the fifth and sixth seeds – moved into the next round with respective straight-set victories over Lorenzo Sonego and Salvatore Caruso.

There were mixed fortunes for the other two top-10 seeds in action on Wednesday, as Pablo Carreno-Busta defeated Karen Khachanov 6-2 6-3, but Diego Schwartzman was sent packing by Casper Ruud, the Norwegian winning 6-3 6-3.

Novak Djokovic will tackle teenage rising star Jannik Sinner for the first time in a tantalising clash of tennis generations on Wednesday at the Monte Carlo Masters.

World number one Djokovic is returning to action this week, having taken time away from the tour since banking an 18th grand slam title by winning the Australian Open in February.

He received a first-round bye, but waiting for him in the last 32 is Sinner, who on Tuesday saw off 2017 Monte Carlo runner-up Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-3 6-4, again illustrating the 19-year-old Italian's great potential.

World number 22 Sinner is the only teenager ranked inside the top 80 in the men's game and is coming off his first run to a Masters final, at the Miami Open.

The switch from hard courts to clay is one that Sinner is having to deal with, and seeing off a specialist on the surface in round one represents an impressive start, although facing two-time former champion Djokovic will be a step up.

"It's always good for me to see what I can do on clay," Sinner said, quoted on the ATP website. "Obviously, I am not in the best form on clay now for the first week.

"But I think today was a solid match from my side. It was not easy. He's not giving [away] one point, so you have to stay there the whole match. I think I played a good match from my side."

Greek fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas reached the last 16 with a 6-3 6-4 win over Russian Aslan Karatsev, but there was disappointment at the same stage for Italian eighth seed Matteo Berrettini, beaten 7-5 6-3 by Spain's Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. Those were the only second-round matches of the day.

Surprise Miami champion Hubert Hurkacz made a winning start, battling to a 6-3 3-6 6-3 first-round success against Italian qualifier Thomas Fabbiano to reach round two.

Roberto Bautista Agut, Grigor Dimitrov, Pablo Carreno Busta and Fabio Fognini each booked places in round two thanks to straight-sets wins.

Qualifier Federico Delbonis was a 7-5 6-1 victor over France's Adrian Mannarino, meaning the Argentinian faces the ultimate test in clay-court tennis next, a tussle with Rafael Nadal, the 11-time former champion in Monte Carlo.

Nadal has won all four of their previous matches, and their fifth encounter will immediately follow the Djokovic-Sinner match on Wednesday.

Pablo Carreno Busta won his first home ATP Tour title at the Andalucia Open on Sunday, while Lorenzo Sonego triumphed in Cagliari.

Hunting a fifth Tour title, top-seed Carreno Busta needed three sets to overcome compatriot Jaume Munar 6-1 2-6 6-4 in Marbella.

It is his 200th tour-level win, though it took him two hours and 21 minutes to claim his maiden Spanish title, and his first win since 2019.

Carreno Busta certainly had to work hard for it, with Munar having battled to 4-4 in the decider.

Yet a seventh break point of the ninth game was taken by Carreno Busta, whose powerful backhand return forced his 23-year-old opponent into an error.

Meanwhile, Sonego became the first Italian since Filippo Volandri in October 2006 to win an ATP Tour title on home soil as he overcame Laslo Djere in the Sardegna Open. 

Serbian Djere was on a nine-match winning streak in Italy, but Sonego – who won the doubles title on Saturday – succeeded 2-6 7-6 (7-5) 6-4.

Sonego is the first player since Feliciano Lopez at the 2019 Queen's Club Championships to win both the doubles and singles titles, and the first Italian to do so since Matteo Berrettini at the 2018 Swiss Open Gstaad.

It represents a second tour-level triumph for world number 34 Sonego, who previously won the 2019 Antalya Open.

Top seed Pablo Carreno Busta and fellow Spaniard Jaume Munar will meet in the Andalucia Open final on Sunday. 

Carreno Busta was pushed all the way by Albert Ramos-Vinolas in a pulsating semi-final, ultimately coming through 6-1 3-6 7-6 (7-5). 

"It was so close. I don't know what happened in the second set," Carreno said. "At the beginning of the match, I was very focussed on my game and being aggressive. 

"After that, Albert, of course, started to push [back] more and [I] started to lose my level a little bit. 

"I just kept fighting all the time, and I want to thank everyone [in the crowd] for their support. This is what we missed last year, the crowd. It's very important to play these kinds of very close matches with a crowd like this."

He will take on Munar after the 23-year-old edged past Carlos Alcaraz 7-6 (7-4) 6-4. 

Munar, who reached a final on the ATP Challenger Tour last week, said: "I feel happy and excited. I've been working a lot during the last [few] months. 

"It's a gift for me to be here in a final, and especially in Marbella which is one of my favourite places. I feel excited."

Elsewhere, Lorenzo Sonego is aiming to become the first Italian to win an ATP Tour clay-court title on home soil for 15 years when he takes on Laslo Djere in the final of the Sardegna Open on Sunday. 

Sonego, 25, overcame American Taylor Fritz 6-4 5-7 6-1 to give himself the opportunity to add to his Antalya Open title from 2019. 

Standing in his way is Serbian Djere, who cruised past Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-2 6-0 in just 52 minutes. 

Djere was in control from the outset and from 3-2 in the first set went on to win nine straight games, helping him to his third ATP Tour final.

Top seed Pablo Carreno Busta led a clean sweep for home players to head up an all-Spanish semi-final slate at the Andalucia Open, where teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz made history.

Carreno Busta demolished seventh seed Soonwoo Kwon 6-4 6-0, while Casper Ruud was stunned in straight sets by wildcard Alcaraz.

The 17-year-old backed up his victory over the veteran Feliciano Lopez in style, becoming the youngest ATP Tour semi-finalist since Alexander Zverev at Hamburg in 2014 with a 6-2 6-4 win.

Albert Ramos-Vinolas will face Carreno Busta after beating Norbert Gombos 6-7 (4-7) 7-5 6-4, while Alcarez is next on the agenda for compatriot Jaume Munar, who was taken the distance by Ilya Ivashka having overcome second seed Fabio Fognini on Thursday.

Taylor Fritz continued his solid form this season with a straight sets victory over Aljaz Bedene to reach the semi-finals of Sardegna Open.

Fritz is playing as the US number one for the first time in Cagliari this week and he made light work of Bedene, prevailing 6-3 6-4 to book a showdown with third seed Lorenzo Sonego, who beat Yannick Hanfmann 3-6 7-6 (8-6) 6-3 despite being 3-5 down in the second.

Seeded second and ranked 30 in the world, Fitz improved his 2021 record to 11-5 and will look to avenge a defeat in his only other meeting with Sonego on clay, when he lost at Roland Garros last year.

Lorenzo Musetti thrilled as he saved four match points to sink top seed Dan Evans on Thursday but bowed out after another epic, losing to Serbia's Laslo Djere 6-4 4-6 6-2 in two hours and 21 minutes.

Djere, who beat sixth seen John Millman en route to the quarter-finals, will face Nikoloz Basilashvili after the battle between seeds four and five ended 7-5 4-6 6-3 in the Georgian's favour.

Pablo Carreno Busta got his quest to win a maiden ATP Tour title in his homeland under way with a straight-sets defeat of Mario Vilella Martinez in the Andalucia Open.

Top seed Carreno Busta needed an hour and 38 minutes to dispatch his fellow Spaniard 7-6 (7-2) 6-3 in Marbella on Wednesday.

Carreno Busta won 73 per cent of points on his first serve and saved the only two break points he faced to set up a quarter-final against Soonwoo Kwon, who beat Facundo Bagnis 6-1 6-3.

Albert Ramos-Vinolas was another home contender to progress, getting the better of Ricardas Berankis 6-3 4-6 6-3, while Norbert Gombos ousted eighth seed Federico Delbonis 5-7 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (7-1).

There were no surprises in the Sardegna Open, where all three seeds in action moved into the last eight.

Taylor Fritz, the second seed, saw the back of Andrej Martin 6-2 7-6 (7-4) to set up a meeting with Aljaz Bedene, who beat Egor Gerasimov 6-4 7-6 (7-5).

Fifth seed Jan-Lennard Struff needed only 81 minutes to defeat qualifier Liam Broady 6-4 6-2, while Nikoloz Basilashvili rallied from a set – and five match points – down to see off Jozef Kovalik 4-6 6-4 7-5.

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