Berlin: Germany`s Philipp Kohlschreiber is to be Rafael Nadal`s first opponent at the Rome Masters after battling past Pablo Cuevas 6-7, 6-1, 6-4 on Monday to set up a second-round meeting with the reigning champion.
Nadal looked to have regained his awesome clay-court prowess when sweeping away the opposition to win his sixth consecutive Monte Carlo Masters earlier this month to send an ominous message to his rivals with the French Open looming.
The Spaniard, who has dropped from top to third in the world rankings after an injury-hit 2009, should be well rested for his Rome title defence on his favourite surface after missing last week`s Barcelona Open.
World number one Roger Federer, who has a bye to the second round like Nadal and the other top seeds, will start his campaign against Ernests Gulbis after the Latvian beat Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis 6-2, 6-2.
Juan Carlos Ferrero, the 12th seed, was sent packing in under an hour, 6-0, 6-3, by Colombian qualifier Santiago Giraldo on the Foro Italico`s slick new centre court.