Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal assumed their accustomed spots in the quarter-finals of the Monte Carlo Masters while another pair of leading seeds fell by the wayside.
Top seed Djokovic and No. 2 Nadal, an 11-time champion at the Country Club overlooking the Mediterranean, both wrapped up comprehensive straight-set victories with minimal effort.
World No. 1 Djokovic beat his ninth straight American opponent with a 6-3, 6-0 hammering of outclassed hardcourter Taylor Fritz.
Nadal laid on a beatdown of former ATP Finals winner Grigor Dimitrov, defeating the 2018 Monte Carlo semi-finalist for the 12th time in 13 matches, 6-4, 6-1.
“I’m very, very happy, this is an important victory for me,” Nadal said. “Grigor is a super talent and is very dangerous.
“It was a positive match for me. I had a good day, I can be happy with what I did on court.”
“When you don’t play on clay for almost a year, every win is important for the confidence, especially as I’m coming back from injury.”
Nadal is back on court after taking a month to rehab the left knee problem which forced him to forfeit his Indian Wells semi last month against Roger Federer on the Californian cement.
Nadal now stands an impressive 70-4 at the tournament which he calls his own after a decade and a half of domination.
The 32-year-old Spaniard next plays Argentine Guido Pella, who defeated Italy’s Marco Cecchinato 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.
But Italy – which begins less than 16 kms away from Centre Court – had plenty to celebrate after 13th seed Fabio Fognini and unknown qualifier Lorenzo Sonego both booked into the last eight.
Fognini, who played a 2013 semi-final, stunned slumping third seed Alexander Zverev 7-6(1), 6-1 while Sonego beat Brit Cameron Norrie 6-2, 7-5.
Fourth seed Dominic Thiem, losing finalist in Paris last June against Nadal, was also stunned, going down to unfancied Serb Dusan Lajovic 6-3, 6-3.
The outsider won the last five games to post his first victory after six losses to Austria’s Thiem.
Like Nadal, Monte Carlo-based Djokovic is also finding his game at the start of the pressurised run to Roland Garros, which begins in just over five weeks.
The 15-time Grand Slam winner was untroubled by opponent Fritz but did have to deal with the wind during his victory.
“It was very challenging to play in these conditions. Taylor just flattens the ball.”
“He doesn’t really have a clay game, but we had five, six close games in the first set, I just managed to break his resistance midway through. After that, things went on my side and I felt more comfortable.
“This was one of these days where you just have to hang in there and try to put an extra ball back in the court – that was enough.”
Djokovic is set for his ninth Monte Carlo quarter-final from 13 appearances at the principality where he makes his family home.
Another seed went down as No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas was beaten by Russia’s 10th seed Daniil Medvedev 6-2, 1-6, 6-4; that win put Medvedev straight into a showdown with Djokovic.
The Serb won their last meeting in Australia three months ago.
Tsitsipas faced three match points and saved two before double-faulting away the third to lose.
Medvedev now leads the ATP with 20 match wins and stands a perfect 4-0 against Tsitsipas.
“This was a great achievement for me,” Medvedev said. “Everything was perfect today.
“Some wind came up in the second set and I could not get used to it. But in the third, I just worked to put every ball in the court. “I was pleased to fight back after going a break down in the third set.”