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Nadal cruises past Raonic to reach Japan Open quarters

Kyodo News

Rafael Nadal outclassed Canadian qualifier Milos Raonic 6-4, 6-4 Thursday to reach the quarterfinals in his first Japan Open.

With yokozuna Hakuho watching and Spanish flags fluttering in the stands, Nadal showed why he is the world No. 1 by coming up with big shots in key situations at Ariake Tennis Forest Park.

Nadal converted his only two break chances in the match while saving all five break points he faced.

“I played well today,” Nadal said. “I’ve known he’s a dangerous player because of his serve and his shots from the baseline. When I go to the court, I don’t expect a tough or an easy match. I just try my best to see what happens.

“I won two break points out of two. Against a big server like today, you know you have to convert your chances. I did the things that I had to do to win the match today.”

Nadal hit a forehand cross-court winner to earn two match points and took the first one when Raonic sent a backhand long.

“He is ‘yokozuna’ in tennis,” Hakuho said of Nadal in a statement after watching tennis live for the first time in his life. “I want to be a good friend of his. I want to tell him about traditional Japanese culture.”

Asked to comment on a career Grand Slam that Nadal completed at the U.S. Open last month, “I’ve myself won four tournaments in a row. I’ve extended my winning streak, too (to 62 matches). It was good to see his foot work. He was probably born to play tennis.”

Nadal finished with five aces, against Raonic’s 14. On Friday, the Spaniard will take on unseeded Russian Dmitry Tursunov.

In other second-round action, Andy Roddick defeated Jeremy Chardy of France 6-4, 7-6 (6-4).

The second-seeded Roddick hit five aces and saved the only break point he faced en route to improving his ATP Tour-best 2010 hard-court record to 36-8.

“I was pretty happy with the way that I played,” the American said. “A lot of points were out of my hands because he serves big. I thought he made a lot of first serves. I feel like I played big points really well. I thought today was pretty encouraging.”

Roddick grabbed an early break for a 2-1 lead in the first set. The two big servers stayed on serve the rest of the way.

“I’m at a point where I feel I’m not scared of playing long points. It’s nice going out there not having to fight a mental battle,” Roddick said.

Federer plans return

HONG KONG (AP) Roger Federer isn’t worried about rankings as he heads into the Shanghai Masters after a four-week break.

The third-ranked Swiss says he has been working to improve himself physically and mentally during his time away from competition.

“I’m a strong believer that when I’m at my best I can beat anyone,” Federer told reporters in Hong Kong on Thursday. “But there’s many guys around right now playing really, really well and Rafael (Nadal) being the No. 1 guy is a tough guy to beat.”