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Nadal rips Hewitt, Serena and Sharapova survive

MIAMI -- World number one Rafael Nadal hammered former number one Lleyton Hewitt 6-1, 6-3 Saturday to reach the third round at the ATP and WTA Miami Masters hardcourt tournament.

The top-seeded Spaniard and his veteran Australian opponent took to the court two and a half hours late due to long matches that preceded them.

But Nadal, who received a first-round bye, ripped through the opening set in 27 minutes and eventually dispatched double Grand Slam winner Hewitt in 66 minutes.

“It's great for me to be back after not playing since 2012. I really enjoy it here,” Nadal said.

“There was no better way to start my return than with a win like this.”

World number one Serena Williams and Russian star Maria Sharapova each battled through three sets Saturday to advance into the fourth round on the women's side.

Nadal next faces Denis Istomin, who beat Dmitry Tursunov 6-7 (8/10), 6-0, 6-3.

Nadal took his sixth win in a row over Hewitt, improving to 7-4 in their rivalry overall.

“I have the greatest respect for Lleyton,” Nadal said. “He's a great example to me and the other players the way he has come back from injuries.

“He always keeps fighting.”

Hewitt, who collected his 600th career ATP match win on Thursday, said Nadal was simply too much for him to overcome.

“He hit the ball really clean right from the start,” Hewitt said. “I hung in there and tried everything I could but he was just too good. Even when I pushed him, he got back into the point.”

Nadal next faces Denis Istomin, who beat Dmitry Tursunov 6-7 (8/10), 6-0, 6-3.

Serbian second seed and three-time Miami champion Novak Djokovic advanced to the fourth round when opponent Florian Mayer retired a day before their scheduled match with a groin injury. Djokovic will next play Tuesday.

Defending champion Williams and last year's runner-up Sharapova struggled mightily to survive, with five-time finalist Sharapova requiring nine match point to book her win.

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Rafael Nadal, of Spain, returns a shot from Lleyton Hewitt, of Australia, at the Sony Open tennis tournament in Key Biscayne, Florida on Saturday, March 22. (AP)

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