Nadal reaches Rome quarters
Rome - Rafael Nadal quickly put behind him what he described as his worst clay performance in memory to streak into the Rome Masters quarter-finals with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Feliciano Lopez on Thursday.
Just 24 hours earlier, the world number one cut a frustrated figure following his troubled three set victory over Italian qualifier Paolo Lorenzi in the second round.
He told reporters after the game that he had played badly and couldn't remember a worse performance on this his favourite surface.
Some suggested he might have been adversely affected by his loss to recent nemesis Novak Djokovic in the Madrid final on Sunday -- his first clay defeat in 10 outings against the world number two.
But Nadal insisted he was feeling no pressure and that he would improve -- he claimed it wouldn't be possible to play so badly again.
And he was proved right as he was more like his old self in notching his fourth straight sets victory against his countryman on this surface.
He began with an early break in the second game as Lopez went long on a sliced backhand.
But just as he had failed to hold a break in the first set against Lorenzi, Nadal suffered a break back against his compatriot.
And it was a similar failing to the day before, when his forehand was out of sorts, that cost him as he plonked one into the net on break point in the seventh game.
However, Lopez played a sloppy game when serving to stay in the set at 4-5, a poor drop shot into the net bringing up 0-40 and three set points to Nadal, who took the first with a rasping backhand passing shot.
Nadal needed only one opportunity in the second set as he hit an inside out forehand winner to bring up two break points at 3-2 and then Lopez went long to hand his countryman a decisive advantage.
And a ruthless Nadal didn't let Lopez win another game, breaking him again in the eighth game.
In fairness, Lopez was far from his best, hitting 30 unforced errors to just 12 by Nadal, including on match-point when he went wide with an easy sliced backhand.
There was mixed success for the two Australian women remaining in the draw.
Sixth seed Samantha Stosur eased into the quarter-finals as she put an end to Slovenian qualifier Polona Hercog's impressive run, winning 6-3, 6-4.
However, Jarmila Gajdosova was soundly thrashed by Chinese fourth seed Li Na, 6-1, 6-2.