In the first set of Rafael Nadal's opening match at the Madrid Masters here yesterday a ballgirl fainted and had to be helped off the court. The world No 1's last 31 opponents on clay know exactly how she feels. Nadal has not been beaten on his favourite surface for more than 12 months and Austria's Jürgen Melzer rarely looked capable of denting that record.
Nadal arrived here insisting that victory was by no means a foregone conclusion, but the manner of his 6-3, 6-1 win over the world No 27 hardly suggested that he will have a dip in form in his last event before the French Open, which begins in 10 days' time. With Queen Sofia of Spain among the admiring crowd, the king of clay won in just over an hour with the minimum of fuss. He took all four of the break points he created, made only three unforced errors and in the second set did not drop a single point on his first serve.
Novak Djokovic, who has been the game's second best player on clay this year, beat Spain's Oscar Hernandez 6-3, 6-3, though the victory was harder earned than the scoreline might suggest. The Serb is aiming to reach his fifth final in succession. Having lost in the final of the last three Masters Series tournaments, in Miami, Monte Carlo and Rome, he won his second title of the year in his home city of Belgrade last weekend.
In today's third round Djokovic's successor as world No 3, Andy Murray, meets the world No 17, Tommy Robredo. The 27-year-old Spaniard has won more matches on clay (21) than any other player this year. Murray, who has played only six matches on clay in 2009, winning four of them, knows he will have to be at his best against an opponent who has already won two titles on the surface this year.
"He moves very well," Murray said. "He's very quick. If you grow up playing on clay that's an advantage you have over other players because it's a different surface to move on. That's one thing he does very well – and he fights too."