Federer, Nadal on course
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal (File)
Monaco - Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer continued on a collision course towards the Monte Carlo Masters final after easily winning their third round matches in contrasting conditions on Thursday.
Nadal braved unusually chilly temperatures on the sun-kissed Cote d'Azur to seal a place in quarterfinals with a straightforward 6-2 6-4 victory over Richard Gasquet.
While the crowd huddled for warmth deciding whether to cheer six-times champion Nadal or local favourite Gasquet, the Spaniard had already broken the Frenchman in the first game as his sheer power again overawed his opponent.
The top seed, bidding to be the first man to win the same tournament seven times in a row as he warms up for next month's French Open, almost lost the next game but held serve thanks to a stunning backhand down the line and hardly looked back.
Gasquet did break for 4-4 in the second set to reveal some chinks in Nadal's armour, offering pretenders to his crown a glimmer of hope that the Spaniard is beatable on clay.
Second seed Federer staked his claim with a 6-4 6-3 victory over Croatia's Marin Cilic after the sun had broken through the clouds at the Monte Carlo Country Club.
The Swiss barely got out of first gear but unleashed some superb winners and the result was never in doubt.
Fourth seed David Ferrer earlier navigated his way through the third round with a 6-1 6-3 win over Canada's fast-rising Milos Raonic but Tomas Berdych hit the rocks when he was overwhelmed by Croatia's Ivan Ljubicic, who next faces Nadal on Friday.
Raonic, who has rocketed from 156th in the rankings at the year's start to 34th, had no answer to the Spaniard's guile as Ferrer romped to victory.
Czech fifth seed Berdych was cast aside by rampant Ljubicic 6-4 6-2 while Viktor Troicki also went through after Spain's Tommy Robredo retired hurt while leading 6-3 1-2 with an apparent hamstring injury.
Results from the fifth day of the ATP Monte Carlo Masters on 14 April 2011 (x denotes seeding):
David Ferrer (ESP x4) bt Milos Raonic (CAN) 6-1, 6-3
Ivan Ljubicic (CRO) bt Tomas Berdych (CZE x5) 6-4, 6-2
Viktor Troicki (SRB x11) bt Tommy Robredo (ESP) 3-6, 2-1 retired
Rafael Nadal (ESP x1) bt Richard Gasquet (FRA x13) 6-2, 6-4
Roger Federer (SUI x2) bt Marin Cilic (CRO x15) 6-4, 6-3
Frederico Gil (POR) bt Gael Monfils (FRA x8) 7-6 (7/2), 6-2
Andy Murray (GRB x3) bt Gilles Simon (FRA x16) 6-3, 6-3
Jurgen Melzer (AUT x7) bt Nicolas Almagro (ESP x9) 6-1, 6-4