Rafael Nadal could have serious competition for the Madrid Open crown this week if Novak Djokovic can build on an impressive opening-round win over Kei Nishikori.
Djokovic looked refreshed and confident in his tough opening match in the Spanish capital, his link up with former coach Marian Vajda already paying dividends.
In the stand-out first-round tie it was Djokovic who claimed victory as he goes in search of a third title.
He is joined in round two by Milos Raonic and Gael Monfils - who will be Nadal's first opponent as he looks to extend his sensational run on the red dirt.
Monday also saw victories for Diego Schwartzman, Benoit Paire, Feliciano Lopez and Milos Raonic, the latter only dropping five games against Nicolas Kicker.
Dusan Lajovic, Federico Delbonis, Mikhail Kukushkin and Damir Dzumhur are also through.
DJOKOVIC HAPPY TO SURVIVE BIG TEST
Nishikori withdrew from his opening match in Barcelona last time out while Djokovic has found both form and fitness hard to come by.
But it was the Serbian who prevailed, and he was delighted to have overcome a tricky opening clash.
"It was a big test for both of us," he said. "I'm glad the match went my way, but it could have gone his way as well.
"It was a very few points that really decided the winner. I managed to play the right shots in the important moments."
RAONIC SETS UP MOUTH-WATERING CLASH
Raonic has never beaten Grigor Dimitrov on clay – they have only met once – and trails the Bulgarian 4-1 in their head-to-head meetings ahead of a second-round clash that he set up by beating Kicker.
The Canadian, a two-time quarter-finalist at this event, thundered down 17 aces on his way past Kicker and looked mightily impressive against the German qualifier in a 6-3 6-2 triumph.
Dimitrov will be a sterner test, though, with Raonic having lost the last four contests.
POUILLE'S PROBLEMS CONTINUE
Lucas Pouille has enjoyed plenty of success on clay during his fledgling career, but the 15th seed's struggles continued on Monday.
Pouille was beaten 6-2 6-3 by the experienced Paire in the first round, and has now lost his last four matches – a run that stretches back to Indian Wells.
There was little Pouille could do as Paire found his groove, the latter hitting a sensational 39 winners in just 79 minutes on court.
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