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Top-seeded Kei Nishikori eases past Teymuraz Gabashvili in Barcelona

BARCELONA, Spain -- Top-seeded Kei Nishikori began the defense of his Barcelona Open title with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia on Tuesday.

Nishikori hit 22 winners and held his serve to win the second-round match on the outdoor clay court in one hour, eight minutes.

The fifth-ranked Japanese player could face last year's runner-up Santiago Giraldo on Thursday if the Colombian gets past Joao Sousa.

Nishikori took control of the match by hitting 11 winners and breaking Gabashvili before finishing out the first set by holding his final serve to love.

Gabashvili tossed his racket down after a third double fault cost him his service as he fell behind 3-2 in the second set. Nishikori then struck an ace to finish the match.

"It was a great first match," Nishikori said. "It was my first match of the year on clay, so I was little tight, but I played a great two sets today."

In the day's other second-round matches, seventh-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut advanced after beating Thomaz Bellucci 6-3, 6-4, while Tommy Robredo downed Mikhail Kukushkin 6-3, 6-2.

Earlier, Russian teenager Andrey Rublev beat former champion Fernando Verdasco 7-6 (4), 6-3 in the first round.

The 17-year-old Rublev, who entered as a qualifier ranked 329th, broke the Spaniard three times while saving five break chances. Rublev will next face 13th-seeded Fabio Fognini.

Albert Montanes came back to defeat Ricardas Berankis 1-6, 6-4, 7-5 and will meet David Ferrer in the second round, where 2014 U.S. Open winner Marin Cilic will play Victor Estrella after Estrella ousted Dominic Thiem 6-3, 7-6 (3).

Marsel Ilhan outlasted James Ward 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-1 in just over two hours, while Sousa edged lucky loser Kenny de Schepper 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

Later, Nicolas Almagro plays Paolo Lorenzi, with the winner moving on to face eight-time winner Rafael Nadal on Wednesday.