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Nadal, an eight-time champion at the event who is looking to reclaim the title after losing to Novak Djokovic in the final last year, got off to the worst possible start today when Gabashvili broke him in the first game.
The Russian, ranked 58 in the world, then consolidated the break on his first service game to move clear.
Nadal broke back to love in the sixth game to make it 3-3 and then snatched the first set by breaking again when 5-4 ahead.
The second set was much simpler for top seed Nadal as he broke Gabashvili three times on his way to a 6-4 6-1 success.
Italy's Andreas Seppi is Nadal's next opponent in round three.