Nadal kicks off clay season with routine win over Bedene

Dominic Thiem awaits Novak Djokovic as Kyle Edmund crashes out in Monte-Carlo

Rafa seeking 11th title Nadal started his bid for an 11th Monte Carlo title with a comfortable victory over Slovenia's Bedene.

"Last year in Roland Garros he beat me in straight sets. That's the real thing", said Nadal.

Though the Serb led their head-to-head 5-1, Thiem emphatically took the defending champion out of the French Open in 2017 in straight sets and was the only man to beat Rafael Nadal on clay last season.

"It's going to be a hard match", the 31-year-old Nadal added. He's definitely Top 3 player in the world on clay.

"I just hope that I'll be healthy", he said. The ninth-seeded Djokovic seemed to change his mind about which shot to play, initially shaping up for a low backhand volley at the net but instead going for a backhand that went long.

That was as good as it got though for Khachanov, as Nadal quickly restored his two-game cushion and served out the opening set to love.

The 16-time Grand Slam champion is bidding for an 11th Monte Carlo title and a record 31st Masters title.

But Djokovic insisted he wasn't looking past the clash with Thiem, a French Open semi-finalist in each of the last two years. Thiem can take confidence from having beaten Nadal twice before on clay.

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"But it's the ultimate challenge for everybody, to play against him".

"I know when I'm healthy, when I'm not dealing with any significant injury that can disturb me on the way to compete and train, then I can really reach that desired level". "I think I'm able to do that".

Djokovic, who won the Monte-Carlo Masters in 2013 and 2015, earned his first Masters 1,000 win of the year on Monday in the tournament's first round against his compatriot Dusan Lajovic.

Third-seeded Alexander Zverev missed out on facing his older brother in the last eight after beating Jan-Lennard Struff 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

Japan's Kei Nishikori, continuing his return from a lengthy lay-off with a wrist injury, beat Russia's Daniil Medvedev 7-5 6-2.

Second-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia, the Australian Open runner-up, had seven aces in a 6-3, 7-6 (4) win against Fernando Verdasco.

Bautista Agut was given a code violation and later fined 2,500 euros ($3,085) for unsportsmanlike conduct. The fourth-seeded Bulgarian beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Home favourite Richard Gasquet ran out a comfortable 6-2, 6-1 victor against Argentine Diego Schwartzman, while German Philipp Kohlschreiber, Italian Andreas Seppi, and No 14 seed Milos Raonic also all progressed to the last 16.



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