MASON, Ohio (AP)
- Rafael Nadal needed little time to win his 30th straight match.
The Spaniard spent only 48 minutes on court Wednesday and earned a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Florent Serra in the second round of the Cincinnati Masters. Nadal has won 30 consecutive matches since May.
Nadal, 22, has been on quite a tear the last two months, which included his epic five-set victory over Roger Federer in the Wimbledon final. In his first match on Cincinnati's extremely fast courts, he hardly missed a shot.
Serra, who hasn't won back-to-back matches since May, managed to win only 20 points, and two of those came on double-faults. Nadal dropped only 13 points in winning the first nine games of the match.
"It's important when you're playing a lot of matches to have one like this," he said.
Nadal, ranked No. 2 in the world for a record 158 weeks, has closed the gap with No. 1 Federer, who needed three sets to win his opening match in Cincinnati. There is a chance that Nadal could overtake him this week.
"Everyone wants to be No. 1, but now my focus is Cincinnati," Nadal said. "My only goal is to continue playing like I have the last four or five weeks. I do that, I will have a lot of chances to be No. 1."
Nadal had a much easier time than third-seeded Novak Djokovic, who struggled with his serve and had to save 10 break points while beating Simone Bolelli 7-6 (2), 7-6 (2) in his second-round match. Djokovic's serve has been out of sync lately, but he was able to take advantage of the Italian's propensity to make mistakes on the biggest shots.
"I didn't play at my top level," Djokovic said. "I was up-and-down with my serve."
There was one upset on Wednesday, with Nicolas Lapentti beating fifth-seeded David Ferrer 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-3. Otherwise, the hottest players in the draw kept their momentum going.
Reassured that the pain in his right knee is nothing serious, Andy Murray relaxed and won his second-round match against Sam Querrey 7-6 (3), 6-1. Murray had a scan taken Monday on the knee, which bothers him when he plays a lot of matches in a short time.
Assured the problem was only some inflammation, Murray showed better movement on the court as the match went along.
"It was just some inflammation around the kneecap," Murray said. "Every time I have a scan it's always there, but at certain times of the year it gets worse when I play a lot of the matches, and also on the hard courts, as well."
Murray reached the semifinals in Toronto last week before losing to Nadal. He arrived in Cincinnati with a No. 9 world ranking and concern that the knee could prevent him from having another good week.
"For me, it is a really important tournament and I want to do well," Murray said. "I've got a good chance of moving my ranking up again this week. To try to get myself seeded in the top eight for the U.S. Open is key, so I want to try and do better than the guys that are ranked around me."
James Blake, one place ahead of him in the rankings, needed only an hour to beat France's Gilles Simon 6-4, 6-3, adding to his summer success on hard courts.
Last year, Blake made it to the final of the $2.6 million ATP Western & Southern Financial Group Masters before losing to Federer. He's on the upswing again.
"This is always the time of year I appreciate most," said Blake, 24-8 on hard courts. "I've had my best results on this kind of court, getting ready for the U.S. Open. So it fits my game the best, and I feel good and healthy and strong."
Blake didn't have much trouble with Simon, who was coming off a breakthrough win on hard courts. The 23-year-old Frenchman won in Indianapolis, his first ATP title in the United States.
"I'm just as surprised as anyone," Blake said. "I figured it was going to be a really tough match."
Blake arrived last Friday and has immersed himself in the local sports scene. He took batting practice before a Cincinnati Reds game on Saturday, and has spent a lot of time with former Cincinnati Bengals linebacker David Pollack, who broke his neck two years ago and is no longer playing. He met Pollack through mutual friends.
"He's been nice enough to have me out to his country club playing golf, and over to his house every night with his family," Blake said. "He's been cooking and helping me make this place feel like home. It's been great."