Sports Illustrated's Beyond the Baseline on Twitter provides the details:
Rafael Nadal is looking ruthless. 61 60 over Istomin in 59 minutes, has lost just five games in two matches. Plays either Fognini or RBA.— Beyond The Baseline (@SI_BTBaseline) March 24, 2014
The hour-long clinic even sparked the following response from tennis analyst Brad Gilbert:
Holy Toledo Rafa really taken Istomiin to the Woodshed— Brad Gilbert (@bgtennisnation) March 24, 2014
Nadal, who is in search of his first-ever Miami Masters title this March, started slow on Monday evening, dropping the first three points of Istomin's opening service game to fall behind 0-40. But Rafa quickly restored order, winning eight straight points to break serve and pull ahead 40-0 in his opening service game.
The one-way momentum would continue throughout the brief set as Istomin had no answer for the Spaniard.
After closing out the first set 6-1, Nadal made sure to bury the world No. 57 before he could flip the switch, winning point after point en route to crushing Istomin's will. Nadal closed out the second set and match at 6-0.
When the dust finally settled, Rafa had converted on 6 of 7 break points, blasted 17 winners and committed just seven unforced errors. The near-flawless display was arguably Nadal's best this season.
Next up, Nadal will face the winner of 14th-seeded Fabio Fognini vs. Roberto Bautista Agut for a spot in the quarterfinals. Regardless of which player winds up being Rafa's next opponent, the 13-time Grand Slam champion will be a heavy favorite to prevail, per The New York Times' Ben Rothenberg:
Nadal has never won Miami, one of three missing jewels from his Masters crown along with Shanghai, Bercy. Looks like the man to beat here.— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) March 24, 2014
Following his early exit at Indian Wells two weeks ago, Nadal has hit the court with a renewed sense of focus and determination. He has looked almost impossible to beat through the opening rounds in Miami and has added motivation to win as he has never won this event before.
I was very disappointed that I was not able to attend last year’s tournament and am looking forward to returning in 2014. I love to play in Miami because of its beautiful location and tremendous fans support. Miami is an international city, and the diverse crowds that attend the tournament create an unbelievable atmosphere. I am excited to see all my fans in Miami this year.
Rafa has won a record 26 Masters 1000 titles over the course of his career, but has never been able to get over the hump in Miami, losing in the men's final three times since 2005.
Looking ahead, Nadal is sure to be pushed to the limit as the tournament wears on and the level of competition rises. But for now, there's no doubt he's playing his best tennis since the 2014 Australian Open.
Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter.