Clay-court king Rafael Nadal got back to winning ways on the surface with a routine victory over John Isner to progress into the last-16 of the Italian Open.
Nadal lost to teenager Carlos Alcaraz in Madrid last week but ensured he bounced back to continue his record of never suffering back-to-back defeats on clay with a 6-3 6-1 triumph to begin his pursuit of an 11th title in Rome.
The 21-time grand slam champion, who was recently sidelined with a rib injury, will face Denis Shapovalov. The pair competed in a three-hour and 27-minute epic clash at the same stage in the Italian capital last year.
“I need to play better than today, but after a while without being on court it is another victory and I have the chance again to play against one of the best players in the world,” Nadal said, as quoted by atptour.com.
“I need to build things again after a tough stoppage and that’s what I am trying now. I just need to stay with the right attitude.”
Second seed Alexander Zverev, who won this tournament in 2017, also progressed on Wednesday with a straight set win over Sebastian Baez.
Former French Open winner Stan Wawrinka extended his stay in Italy with another gutsy win, coming from a break-down in the decider to edge out qualifier Laslo Djere and bring the crowd to their feet.
It has earned Wawrinka, who had gone over a year without a win following more surgery in 2021, a meeting with Novak Djokovic for a place in the quarter-finals.
Elsewhere in the men’s draw, last year’s Roland Garros runner-up Stefanos Tsitsipas got the better of Grigor Dimitrov in three sets but only after he saved two match points to earn a 6-3 5-7 7-6 (4) triumph.
Women’s world number one Iga Swiatek made it 24 wins in a row with a comfortable victory over Elena-Gabriela Ruse in the second round.
Aryna Sabalenka also progressed in quick time with a 6-2 6-0 win against Zhang Shuai, but there were surprise defeats for sixth seed Karolina Pliskova and Garbine Muguruza, who was seeded eighth, in the round of 32 stage.