Rome - Defending champion Novak Djokovic staged a 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 comeback win over Argentine Juan Monaco to earn a place in the quarter-finals at a windy Rome Masters on Thursday.
With gusts making life a challenge on the red clay, top seed Djokovic had to smash a racquet into useless bits of composite material to get himself going after losing the opening set to "Pico," best friend of Rafael Nadal on the ATP tour.
The outburst came after the Argentine had finally converted on a fifth set point in the blustery conditions.
The Serb went down a break in the second set but got it back with one more for insurance as he levelled at a set apiece. It took a break for 5-3 in the final set to put the Serb into position to close out victory on his second match point.
Djokovic finished with 16 winners and 40 unforced errors, a symptom of the windy conditions which have bothered players all week. He now leads Monaco 6-0 as the pair played for the first time on the South American's preferred surface.
Rome is one of the four Masters 1000 titles which Djokovic has won in multiple editions, along with Indian Wells, Miami and Canada.
Spanish sixth seed David Ferrer knocked out French 11th seed Gilles Simon 6-0, 7-6 (7/5), while Madrid finalist Tomas Berdych, seeded seventh, reached the last eight as he put out Spaniard Nicolas Almagro 7-6 (7/3), 6-3.
On the women's side, top seed Victoria Azarenka faces a French Open fitness battle after a right shoulder injury forced her to withdraw before her third-round match.
The Belarus player pulled out prior to her third-round match, handing a walkover win to Slovak Dominika Cibulkova.
With just 10 days until the start of the French Open, the Belarusian will hope for a quick recovery ahead of her bid for a second straight Grand Slam title.
Wimbledon winner and fourth seed Petra Kvitova battled to overcome Romanian Sorona Cirstea 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 while German 12th seed Angelique Kerber beat German compatriot Julia Goerges 6-4, 6-1.
Italy's Flavia Pennetta continued to thrill home fans, crushing Petra Cetkovska 6-0, 6-1.
Latest results from the fourth day of the Rome Masters tournament on Thursday (x denotes seeding):
Novak Djokovic (SRB x1) bt Juan Monaco (ARG x14) 4-6, 6-2, 6-3
Tomas Berdych (CZE x7) bt Nicolas Almagro (ESP x12) 7-6 (7/3), 6-3
David Ferrer (ESP x6) bt Gilles Simon (FRA x11) 6-0, 7-6 (7/5)
Dominika Cibulkova (SVK x14) bt Victoria Azarenka (BLR x1) walkover
Angelique Kerber (GER x12) bt Julia Goerges (GER) 6-4, 6-1
Petra Kvitova (CZE x4) bt Sorana Cirstea (ROM) 6-2, 5-7, 6-2
Serena Williams (USA x9) bt Anabel Medina Garrigues (ESP) 6-3, 6-1
Flavia Pennetta (ITA) bt Petra Cetkovska (CZE) 6-0, 6-1
Venus Williams (USA) bt Samantha Stosur (AUS x5) 6-4, 6-3