Nadal beats Paire to reach Barcelona quarterfinals


BARCELONA, Spain (AP) -Seven-time winner Rafael Nadal advanced to the quarterfinals of the Barcelona Open by beating Benoit Paire of France 7-6 (2), 6-2 Friday.

Paire broke Nadal's first service game, but when the fifth-ranked Spaniard found his rhythm he had little trouble extending his winning streak on the Real Club de Tenis' red clay to 36 straight matches.

The match was originally scheduled for Thursday but was postponed due to rain. If the weather holds up, Nadal will play either Kei Nishikori or Albert Ramos later Friday in the quarterfinals.

Also, Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany beat Martin Klizan of Slovakia 1-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (5) after their third-round match was postponed Thursday because of rain with Klizan leading 4-3 in the third set.

Playing two matches in the same day should be a good test for Nadal to see how far he has improved since returning in February from a nagging case of tendinitis in his left knee that had sidelined him since June.

Nadal reached five straight finals heading into Barcelona, but his loss to Novak Djokovic last weekend that ended his eight-year winning run at Monte Carlo awakened questions of whether he is ready to compete for the much more grueling French Open next month.

"We'll see how the day goes. For the moment I've done the important thing which is to win the first match," Nadal said. "I'm taking it step-by-step. Let's see if I can play better in the second match."

Nadal had a sluggish start and Paire hit a winner off one of his second serves to get the early advantage.

After squandering three breaks points in Paire's first service game, Nadal broke back to pull level at 3-3 with a series of defensive slices that Paire eventually sent long.

Nadal's steady ground game forced Paire to make three errors in the tiebreaker and cede the first set.

Nadal took control of the second set when he broke Paire from love to go ahead 3-2 after the Frenchman's serve suddenly failed him and he hit consecutive double-faults.

Paire had a chance to break back on the next game but hit long and then slammed his racket into the ground. Nadal went on to take the game and sealed the match when Paire's final drop shot fell well short.

Nadal last lost at the Barcelona Open 10 years ago.

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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