Monaco:Juan Ignacio Chela of Argentina beat Igor Kunitsyn of Russia 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 on Monday in the Monte Carlo Masters to set up a second-round match against four-time defending champion Rafael Nadal.
The top-ranked Nadal, who had a first-round bye, has beaten Chela in four of five matches, including all three on clay. Nadal's lone loss to Chela came five years ago on hard courts in Cincinnati.
"Chela is a good clay-court player. I have to play good tennis if I want to have good chances to win," Nadal said. "(I need to) try to play aggressive without a lot of mistakes."
Although Nadal is bidding for five straight titles both in Monte Carlo and at the French Open, the 22-year-old Australian Open champion said he is feeling less pressure than he usually does in spring because of a fine start to the year.
"Maybe less than ever because I won in Australia, won in Indian Wells," Nadal said. "I started the season better than ever. That gives me more calm than the last years."
The 14th-seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia used his strong forehand to dominate Flavio Cipolla of Italy 6-3, 6-2.
Andreas Seppi of Italy also advanced, beating Jurgen Melzer of Austria 6-2, 6-0. He will next play second-ranked Roger Federer, who has lost the last three finals to Nadal in both Monte Carlo and at the French Open.
Oscar Hernandez of Spain defeated Julien Benneteau of France 6-4, 6-4. He will meet No. 3 Novak Djokovic of Serbia, a semifinalist in Monte Carlo and at Roland Garros last year.
"I played my best clay-court season last year, winning the Masters in Rome and reaching the semifinals in a couple of major events," Djokovic said. "So it's a pretty high reach this year to repeat the same success, and hopefully doing even better."
Djokovic, who lost to fourth-ranked Andy Murray in the final of the Masters tournament in Key Biscayne, Florida, this month, feels his confidence is coming back at the right time.
"I've played much better in the last two months," Djokovic said. "Reaching the final in Miami and winning Dubai gave me a boost up for the upcoming clay-court season."
Ivan Ljubicic rallied from 4-1 down in the decider to beat Kristof Vliegen of Belgium 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-4, and Andreas Beck rallied to defeat Nicolas Kiefer 1-6, 7-6 (1), 6-4 in an all-German match.
Victor Hanescu of Romania, Marcel Granollers of Spain, Marc Gicquel of France and Juan Monaco of Argentina also won.
Hanescu defeated Alberto Martin 6-2, 6-3; Granollers beat Jose Acasuso 7-6 (4), 7-6 (2); Monaco beat Jeremy Chardy 6-2, 7-5; and Gicquel rallied to defeat Eduardo Schwank 3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (2).