MONTE CARLO, Apr 18 (Reuters) Rafael Nadal started the defence of his Monte Carlo Open title by beating local favourite Arnaud Clement 6-4 6-4 today.
World number two Nadal, making a late start to his claycourt campaign after a foot injury hit his schedule, looked a bit rusty but did enough to reach the second round of the Masters Series event.
Clement, who overcame Nadal in the semi-finals of the Marseille Open in February before taking the title, troubled his opponent with an early break in the second set.
Spaniard Nadal then had his right ankle strapped before he fought back to level the set. He broke the Frenchman in the ninth game to serve for the match.
The French Open champion earned two match points and wasted the first before Clement hit a cross-court backhand wide to bow out after 95 minutes.
Argentine sixth seed Guillermo Coria, the 2004 winner, started his pursuit of a fourth consecutive final appearance in the principality with a straightforward 6-3 6-1 victory over Russia's Mikhail Youzhny.
Former world number one Marat Safin, struggling to recapture his best form after a long injury break, made an early exit, Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu beating him 6-0 7-5.
Russian Safin, who twisted his ankle in his semi-final defeat by Spaniard Nicolas Almagro in Valencia last week, lost the first eight games and needed 44 minutes to hold serve for the first time.
REUTERS AY HT1937