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Rafael Nadal delights record crowd at Monte Carlo Masters

updated 1:40 PM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
World No. 1 Rafael Nadal is bidding for a ninth triumph at the Monte Carlo Masters.
World No. 1 Rafael Nadal is bidding for a ninth triumph at the Monte Carlo Masters.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rafael Nadal beats Teymuraz Gabashvili 6-4 6-1 at Monte Carlo Masters
  • The world No. 1 is bidding for a ninth career triumph at the Monte Carlo Country Club
  • 17-time grand slam champion Roger Federer defeats Radek Stepanek
  • Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka also victorious on Wednesday

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(CNN) -- On a record attendance day at the Monte Carlo Masters tennis event, the king of clay held court.

World No. 1 Rafael Nadal began his quest for a record-extending ninth triumph at the principality tournament with a 6-4 6-1 victory over Russia's Teymuraz Gabashvili.

A capacity crowd of 14,600 fans packed into the Monte Carlo Country Club, where Nadal won eight successive titles between 2005 and 2012.

His winning run was snapped 12 months ago by rival Novak Djokovic, who opened his campaign Tuesday with a defeat of Albert Montanes.

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Nadal came within a point of going a double break down in Wednesday's opening set, but he recovered to wrap up victory in resounding fashion.

"It was very important that point, 3-1, break point for him," Nadal told the ATP Tour's official website. "I saved it with one good shot and one good volley.

"After that I felt that was the time to try to push a little bit more and increase the rhythm and the intensity. I played a good game to get the break back. I felt that I had the match a little bit more under control."

Next for Nadal is a third-round tie with Italy's Andreas Seppi, who emerged victorious from a marathon encounter with Spaniard Pablo Andujar that lasted two hours and 48 minutes.

Also off to a winning start was Roger Federer, who took a wildcard to appear at the tournament for the first time since 2011.

The 17-time grand slam champion effortlessly dispatched Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic 6-1 6-2, and will next face Czech Lukas Rosol.

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"I'm very happy now that I'm doing well," said fourth seed Federer, a three-time runner-up in Monte Carlo. "But, of course, I also expect this from myself. So I'm just trying to keep up that rhythm. I feel free physically and in my mind. I'm eager to play, I'm eager to practice.

"I want to play good points. I'm no longer afraid that the rally will last too long. This was getting in the way of my game last year, whereas now I can really enjoy myself."

Federer has been usurped as Switzerland's top-ranked player by Stanislas Wawrinka, who won the first grand slam title of his career at January's Australian Open.

The world No. 3 wasted no time in his match against Croatia's Marin Cilic, sealing a 6-0 6-2 triumph in just 46 minutes.

"I practiced perfectly before," said the 29-year-old, who next faces Spanish 15th seed Nicolas Almagro. "I expected a more difficult or more complicated first round against him.

"But I was able, as I said, to practice well before. I felt good on the court. I know that physically if I feel good, then I am able to put a lot of pressure on the opponent.

"Now the clay court season is just starting and I'm always very pumped up for this particular moment of the year. I'm aware of my strengths, and I know that I must practice a lot and prepare well."

Read: Why is Rafael Nadal so happy?

Read: Belinda Bencic -- The new Hingis?

Read: Can new "Musketeers" fulfil potential?

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