Acapulco: Rafael Nadal's return from injury gathered pace on Wednesday as the former world No. 1 downed Argentina's Martin Alund 6-0, 6-4 to reach the Mexican Open quarter-finals. The second-seeded Nadal made short work of the first set before fending off a more determined Alund in the second to finish the match in just over 85 minutes at the clay-court tournament.
"The first set was very, very good, perhaps the best one in the tour so far," the Spaniard said. "I'm really happy for the way that I competed in that first set. In the second one I got a little bit tired and it was an even match before he made some mistakes for me to won it." Nadal will next face another Argentine in Leonardo Mayer, who defeated Russia's Andrey Kuznetsov 6-2, 6-2 to advance.
"Leo is a player with a lot of potential, a hard hitter, so it's going to be a tough match. I want to play as good as my first set today. If I can do it, my chances will be greater, otherwise it's going to be very hard".
Top-seeded David Ferrer earlier downed American Wayne Odesnik 6-2, 6-1 to book his place in the final eight.
Nadal is making a comeback after being away from the Tour for more than seven months with a left-knee injury. He made the final of the VTR Open earlier this month in Chile before losing to Argentine Horacio Zeballos and a week later beat David Nalbandian to claim the Brazil Open title.
On Tuesday, Nadal said he may pull out of next week's Indian Wells Masters in California to spare his fragile knees from the hard courts. The Spaniard said he has to think about protecting his knees and stay healthy for the European clay-court season that climaxes with the French Open, which he has won seven times.
He didn't say whether he would compete in the hard-court Key Biscayne Masters, where he's reached the final three times.
"For the last three days, the feeling [in the knee] is so much better. I'm able to compete with a fairly acceptable condition, something that I didn't feel in Chile or Sao Paulo," Nadal said. "It's a big improvement for me, it gives me hope, illusion and motivation to keep on going."
Can Nadal go all the way to win his second tournament in a row since returning from injury?