Monaco: Eight-time champion Rafael Nadal extended his Monte Carlo Masters winning streak to 43 matches, and top-ranked Novak Djokovic was relieved his right ankle held firm despite hurting it again as both reached the third round of the Monte Carlo Masters on Wednesday.
Nadal beat Marinko Matosevic 6-1, 6-2, but Djokovic spent twice as long on court against Mikhail Youzhny before beating the Russian 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 in 2 hours, 15 minutes.
"Today was a big test. My ankle survived, I'm in the next round. That's what matters," Djokovic said. "I know that my game is still not there, obviously, and I have a lot of ups and downs through the match. Physically also, I think I've put double the effort than I do usually because, you know, I still don't feel comfortable."
Djokovic twisted his ankle while playing for Serbia in the Davis Cup on April 7, and was not sure if he would be able to play in Monte Carlo, where he lost in the final last year to Nadal. He looked a bit tentative in the first set but did not appear to be impeded in his movement.
He twisted it again during the second set and was hindered for about 15 minutes before the pain wore off.
"You know, protection, the tape, was good. So I managed to overcome that pain and go through the match," said Djokovic, who next faces 14th-seeded Juan Monaco. "I think that my ankle is (getting better) as the days are passing by. Obviously I will have to play a match every day (during the tournament)."
His relief was evident as he lent backward and lifted both hands in the air after clinching victory on his first match point.
"I'm just happy to compete, to be honest. I didn't know if I'm going to be playing the tournament up to yesterday, basically," Djokovic said. "For me it's important not to have a bigger risk of injuring myself. I enjoy this tournament very much. As I said before, if it was not Monaco I would consider not playing."
Second-seeded Andy Murray also advanced with a 6-1, 6-4 win against France's Edouard Roger-Vasselin. The Briton next plays 13th-seeded Stanislas Wawrinka.
Earlier, Nadal nearly trailed 3-0 in the second set, but he saved two break points before taking control again.
"I played well at the beginning with the right intensity, with no mistakes," said Nadal, who next faces No. 16 Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany.
At first, Matosevic looked unlikely to even win a game. There were ironic cheers from the crowd when he won his first point and the tall Australian threw both arms up in the air - twice - to milk the applause when he won his first game.
The third-seeded Nadal dropped his serve at the start of the second set and Matosevic held for a surprising 2-0 lead, and he even had a chance to go further ahead, but Nadal saved the first break point with a forehand winner down the line and Matosevic sent the next opportunity into the net.
"I didn't play my best game the first game of the second, and he played well, so he had the break," Nadal said.
He could even see the funny side of when Matosevic kicked Nadal's water bottles over at the changeover when trailing 5-2.
"No, was not a pressure moment. Was a funny one," Nadal said. "Maybe he thought that affects my concentration."
The Spaniard, who played with strapping under his left knee, missed seven months through injury, and since returning in February he has reached four straight finals, winning three.
"Talking more than usual about the knee is not positive for me, is not positive for the opponents, for the tournament, for nobody, no?" Nadal said. "What happened happened."
Early on, Djokovic appeared reluctant to commit himself to certain shots and trailed 4-0. Although he drew applause on one shot when he sprinted to retrieve a lob and flicked the ball from the back of the court over the head of Youzhny.
Djokovic missed the chance to go 2-0 up in the second set when Youzhny saved two break points. But that was a temporary reprieve for the Russian as Djokovic won the next five games to level the match and quickly moved a break up before holding for 3-1 in the third. He then handed Youzhny a lifeline as the Russian broke back to 3-3.
Fourth-seeded Tomas Berdych, ninth-seeded Marin Cilic, Jurgen Melzer, Fabio Fognini, Florian Mayer, Jarkko Nieminen and Wawrinka.