RAFAEL Nadal took just 79 minutes to seal a straightforward comeback victory against Aljaz Bedene in the second round of the Monte Carlo Masters.
The top seed, who is bidding to win the clay tournament for an 11th time and a third year in succession, has not played on the tour since he retired with a hip injury in his Australian Open quarter-final clash against Marin Cilic.
But after two impressive victories for Nadal in Spain’s Davis Cup quarter-final win last weekend, the 31-year-old secured an emphatic 6-1 6-3 victory against the former British No.2 to ease his way into the last 16.
Awaiting Nadal in the next round will be Russian Karen Khachanov after his 6-2 6-2 win against France’s Gilles Simon.
Earlier, 12-time grand slam winner Novak Djokovic booked his place in the third round after seeing off Borna Coric in straight sets.
Djokovic, who ended a three-match losing streak with victory over Dusan Lajovic in his opening rubber earlier this week, secured his progress with a hard-fought 7-6 (7-2) 7-5 victory against the world No.39.
The match lasted more than two hours, Nadal and Djokovic, playing in only his fourth tournament since last summer’s Wimbledon championships, required 10 match points to get his victory over the line.
The ninth seed will now face Dominic Thiem for a place in the quarter-finals, with Nadal then to be the likely opponent.
There were also round of 32 victories for Japan’s Kei Nishikori after he clinched a 7-5 6-2 victory against Daniil Medvedev of Russia. Roberto Bautista-Agut, the 11th seed, defeated his Spanish compatriot Feliciano Lopez, but Italian Fabio Fognini, seeded 13th, was on the wrong end of a 6-4 6-2 defeat to Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff.