NONTHABURI, Thailand — Rafael Nadal finally got on with his main business in Thailand — playing tennis — and dispatched Belgian qualifier Ruben Bemelmans 6-1, 6-4 on Thursday in his first match since winning the U.S. Open.
Making his Thailand Open debut after a first-round bye, top-ranked Nadal wasn’t troubled in the match. He lost only eight points on serve.
Nadal has been treated like a royal since he arrived in Thailand nine days ago, receiving a hero’s welcome from government and sports officials when he landed in Bangkok.
He enjoyed a holiday in the beach town of Hua Hin, where he took part in a religious ceremony with Buddhist monks and planted a tree in King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s campaign against global warming.
Back in Bangkok, he delayed a visit with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Parliament so he could practise.
Nadal showed little rust even though it had been more than two weeks since he completed the career Grand Slam in New York.
In Friday’s quarter-finals, Nadal will meet either Olivier Rochus of Belgium or Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan.
Second-seeded Fernando Verdasco of Spain, who accepted a wild card to play in Thailand, dropped a 6-4, 6-4 decision to Benjamin Becker of Germany in the second round.
A sluggish Verdasco quickly fell behind 4-0. He rallied back but the more disciplined Becker won the set 6-4.
Verdasco dropped the ninth game of the second set on a double fault, and Becker served well to set up match point at 40-30, closing it out with an impressive volley.
“It was tough. I was practising well but the match was different. He played yesterday one match and got more rhythm,” Verdasco said. “He played better than me. He adapted better than me, he served well and didn’t make many unforced errors. He deserved the victory more than me.”
Earlier, seventh-seeded Viktor Troicki of Serbia — last year’s finalist — was ousted by Jarkko Nieminen of Finland 7-6 (4), 6-2.