Rafael Nadal’s preparations for the French Open continued apace as he swept past 13th-seeded Jack Sock 6-3 6-4 to ease into the Italian Open quarter-finals and extend his winning streak to 17 matches.
Fourth-seeded Nadal broke Sock’s serve twice in the second set and served out the match to set up a last-eight meeting with Dominic Thiem, who was beaten by Nadal in the Madrid Open final last week.
“I am here to try my best. I know (it) is a tough tournament. I don’t have an easy draw here, a tough one,” Nadal said.
“Dominic is the player that is having probably more success now on clay, no? So will be another tough battle tomorrow.”
The 30-year-old Nadal has won consecutive clay-court tournaments in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid.
The Spaniard is aiming for an eighth title at the Foro Italico as he prepares for the French Open in less than two weeks.
“I think I can play a little bit more aggressive than what I did tonight. I think I have to do it,” Nadal said.
“But in general terms I am happy with the way that I played, obviously.”
Thiem also beat an American but had to save two match points in a 3-6 6-3 7-6 (9-7) victory over Sam Querrey.
Third seed Stan Wawrinka became the latest high-profile casualty at the Italian Open on Thursday when the Swiss was knocked out in the third round by American John Isner.
Isner took his ace count to 72 in three rounds as he powered past Wawrinka 7-6 (1) 6-4 to reach the quarter-finals.
It was his first claycourt win against a top-10 player at an ATP Tour event and his reward is a clash with Croatia’s Marin Cilic who beat David Goffin 6-3 6-4.
World No.2 Novak Djokovic continued to look more like his old self after a slump as he saw off Spanish claycourter Roberto Bautista-Agut 6-4 6-4 on Court Centrale to reach the quarters for an 11th successive year.
Earlier there was disappointment for home fans as Fabio Fognini, who beat top seed Andy Murray on Tuesday, was outplayed 6-3 6-3 by Germany’s Alexander Zverev.
Fognini failed to reproduce the sparkling form that did for Murray and blew his top in the second set over a line call, arguing with umpire Mohamed Lahyani.
Zverev, who turned 20 last month, wrapped up the second set 6-3, and will play Canada’s Milos Raonic, the No.5 seed, next after he beat Tomas Berdych.
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