The seventh-seeded Scot returned to singles action having taken a
break in an inconsistent year that has seen him fall down the
Earlier, Rafa Nadal launched the defense of his Madrid Open title by
breezing past Juan Monaco 6-1 6-0 to rediscover his touch on his
favored clay after surprise exits in his last two tournaments.
The world No 1 went out in the quarter-finals at both Monte Carlo
and Barcelona last month, but his extra quality shone through in his
second-round match against the 56th-ranked Monaco.
Murray made a storming start against Almagro, with two breaks of
serve on his way to winning the first set.
He outplayed the Spaniard with his power and speed around the court
but the second set was very different, as Almagro found his range
and Murray's head went down.
Almagro, who knocked Nadal out of the Barcelona Open, looked in
charge but it was a much tighter final set, in which Murray
rediscovered his consistency to win.
"It was a tough match, he was going for bombs with every shot and
huge serves. He was ripping the ball from the back of the court,"
Murray told reporters.
Admitting that he does not find it easy on clay, he added: "I have
been struggling on it in the last few years, physically. It's a
question of keeping on top of the recovery. The aim is to stay fit
for the French Open and the next few weeks are very important."
Nadal, seeking a fourth Madrid Open title, established a 2-0 lead
and never looked back.
Although he was not at his best, the power and accuracy of his shots
were too much for the Argentine, with the match ending in 68
The Spaniard is gearing up for the French Open at Roland Garros,
where he has won a record eight titles.
In the last nine seasons, he has won at least two European claycourt
titles ahead of the French grand slam, but he is yet to win in his
home continent this year, with his only 2014 victory on the red dust
coming in Rio de Janeiro in February.
[to top of second column]
"All the wins are useful to improve your confidence. At the start it
was more difficult, I moved nervously. Then after that I played
better than I have been doing," Nadal told reporters.
He now faces a quarter-final against Jarkko Nieminen, who beat Igor
Sijsling 6-3 6-2.
"We know each other very well, we've played a lot of times. He is a
fighter and left-handed as well so it will be a tough game," Nadal
said of the 57th-ranked Finn.
Women's No 1 Serena Williams remained on track for her 60th career
title as she powered past Peng Shuai 6-2 6-3 in Madrid.
It has been a patchy season for the American, who won the Miami
Masters in March, but followed that by exiting in the early rounds
Having taken a month out to rediscover her form she looked strong
against Peng, ranked 42 in the world, winning eight of the first
nine points to break serve.
Williams was dominant on her serve and the Chinese failed to
unsettle her. Williams now faces a quarter-final against Spanish No
1 Carla Suarez Navarro, who beat Alison Riske 6-2 6-4.
(Writing by Tim Hanlon in London; Editing by Toby Davis and Stephen
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.