Nishikori wins Barcelona opener
Barcelona, Spain (SportsNetwork.com) - Top-seeded and defending champion Kei Nishikori was an easy second-round winner Tuesday at the $2.1 million Barcelona Open tennis event.
The 2014 U.S. Open runner-up from Japan handled Russian Teymuraz Gabashvili 6-3, 6-4 in 69 minutes on the red clay at Real Club de Tenis Barcelona.
"I played a good two sets today," said Nishikori. "It wasn't easy for my first match on clay this year, but I served great. It's always special to come back and defend the title here, where there is such great facilities."
The world No. 5 Nishikori beat Colombian Santiago Giraldo in last year's Barcelona finale.
Also in the second round, seventh-seeded Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut handled Brazilian Thomaz Bellucci 6-3, 6-4, ninth-seeded Spaniard Tommy Robredo mauled Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3, 6-2 and 10th-seeded Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay doused Spanish wild card Roberto Carballes Baena 6-4, 7-5. Robredo titled here in 2004 and was the runner-up in 2006.
Several men posted first-round wins on Day 2, including Spaniards Nicolas Almagro and wild card Albert Montanes and Argentine Juan Monaco.
An opening-round surprise came when Russian qualifier Andrey Rublev took out Spain's Fernando Verdasco, the 2010 Barcelona champ, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3.
"I'm really happy to win against one of the best players on the tour," said Rublev.
Several seeds will take to the courts for second-rounders on Wednesday, including the great Rafael Nadal, who will be opposed by his fellow Spaniard Almagro in a rematch of the 2013 final, which was won by Nadal.
The former world No. 1 Nadal is a nine-time French Open champion and eight- time Barcelona titlist.
Also on Day 3, third-seeded four-time runner-up David Ferrer will battle his compatriot Montanes and fourth-seeded U.S. Open champ Marin Cilic will meet the Dominican Republic's Victor Estrella Burgos.
This week's winner will collect $495,000.