ROME: World number one Novak Djokovic reached the Italian Open quarter-finals for the 15th time in a row with a straight-set win over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
The defending champion dropped his opening serve but recovered immediately to beat the Spanish qualifier 6-2 6-1.
He was bad-tempered in his previous match but here he was serene as he savoured the return of fans in Rome.
After losing his opening service game, Djokovic went on to outclass his opponent - who staged some late resistance by saving five match points - in a clinical display.
He said his performance had been "at least 20-30% better" than against American Taylor Fritz in his opening match on Tuesday, when he was unhappy with the playing conditions and had been prone to errors.
"It always feels like home coming back to Rome," said Djokovic, who has never failed to reach the quarter-finals in his 15 appearances in the clay-court event.
Djokovic will take on fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas for a place in the semi-finals after the Greek beat Italy's Matteo Berrettini 7-6 (7-3) 6-2 in one hour and 36 minutes.
Nine-time champion Rafael Nadal saved two match points to defeat Canada's Denis Shapovalov in a three-set battle and advance to the quarter-finals. Second seed Nadal won through 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) after nearly 3hr 30min on court against the 13th-seeded Shapovalov. Nadal was trailing a set and 0-3 down in the second set before powering back. Shapovalov also broke for 3-1 in the third set but Nadal broke back immediately and held on despite two match points against him in the 12th game to force a tie-break.
The Spaniard reached his 16th last-eight appearance in Rome and a 97th ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final.
American Reilly Opelka also advanced to his second Masters 1000 quarter-final with a 7-6 (8/6), 6-4 victory against in-form Russian Aslan Karatsev.
Opelka served 18 aces and won 52 of 69 points on his serve to record his third consecutive straight-set win this week — after entering Rome on a six-match losing streak that included dealing with a bout of COVID-19.
Federico Delbonis beat Felix Auger Aliassime 7-6, 6-1 to reach the last eight stage.
In the women's tournament, top-ranked Ashleigh Barty beat Veronika Kudermetova 6-3, 6-3 and will next face American teenager Coco Gauff, who defeated Aryna Sabalenka 7-5, 6-3.
Sabalenka, who overcame Barty in the Madrid Open final on Saturday, committed more than twice as many unforced errors as Gauff — 36 to 17.
It's the fourth time this season that the 17-year-old Gauff has reached the quarterfinals.
Jessica Pegula, another American, followed up her victory over Naomi Osaka by eliminating Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-2, 6-4.
Champion Simona Halep was forced to retire injured in the second round of the Italian Open on Wednesday weeks before her bid to reclaim the French Open.
The world number three pulled up with a left calf issue while leading Germany's Angelique Kerber 6-1, 3-3 in their match on clay at the Foro Italico in Rome.
The 29-year-old limped back to her chair helped by officials but left the court in tears after treatment. Agencies