Top guns advance in Rome Masters

ROME: Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic advanced to the Rome Masters quarter-finals with routine straight-sets wins.

Nadal extended his clay-court winning streak to 27 — stretching back to an opening-round loss to Juan Carlos Ferrero here last year — with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Robin Soderling of Sweden.

Federer avenged last year’s quarter-final loss to Radek Stepanek by beating the 16th-seeded Czech 6-4, 6-1. Djokovic had a surprisingly easy time with 13th-seeded Tommy Robredo, winning 6-1, 6-1.

Also advancing were No 5 Juan Martin del Potro, No 8 Fernando Verdasco, No 12 Fernando Gonzalez, and two qualifiers — Juan Monaco of Argentina and Mischa Zverev of Germany.

Nadal was so dominant against Soderling that the 27th-ranked Swede became frustrated enough to call the ATP supervisor, Mark Darby, onto the court early in the second set over a disputed call. Computer replays showed Soderling’s shot was clearly out.

Nadal has won clay-court titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona in the past two weeks and is attempting to become the first player in the Open era to win this tournament four times. Before his perfect Rome record was ruined by Ferrero last year, Nadal won three consecutive titles at Foro Italico from 2005-07. Thomas Muster has won three Rome titles, in 1990, ‘95 and ‘96.

Nadal will face Verdasco, who eliminated Richard Gasquet of France 7-5, 6-4. Gasquet was forced to play two matches on Wednesday due to rain earlier in the week. Federer will next play the 76th-ranked Zverev, who upset eighth-seeded Gilles Simon 6-4, 6-1

Djokovic needs to defend his title here to prevent Andy Murray from taking the No 3 ranking from him, even though Murray was eliminated by Monaco on Wednesday. Del Potro defeated last year’s runner-up, No 10 Stanislas Wawrinka, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-3. Monaco produced another upset by beating 15th-seeded Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-4. He will next face Gonzalez, who beat net-charging Jurgen Melzer of Austria 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.