Rome:Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic both advanced to the Rome Masters quarterfinals with routine straight-set wins on Thursday.
Federer avenged last year's quarterfinal loss to Radek Stepanek by beating the 16th-seeded Czech player 6-4, 6-1. Djokovic had an even easier time with 13th-seeded Tommy Robredo, winning 6-1, 6-1.
Also advancing were No. 5 Juan Martin Del Potro, No. 12 Fernando Gonzalez, and Argentine qualifier Juan Monaco. Later, three-time Rome champion Rafael Nadal faced Robin Soderling of Sweden.
Federer jumped out to a 3-0 lead before being broken when he served for the first set at 5-3. But the newlywed Swiss player broke right back when he forced Stepanek to hit a low volley that landed in the net.
Federer cruised in the second set, serving his fifth ace on his first match point. But Federer managed to get only 43 percent of his first serves in, and he will likely have to improve to avoid extending his title drought to eight tournaments.
Djokovic needs to defend his title at this clay-court warmup for the French Open to prevent Andy Murray from taking the No. 3 ranking from him, even though Murray was eliminated by Monaco on Wednesday.
Djokovic began working with Thomas Muster's old trainer, Gebhard Phil-Gritsch, last week, and kept his level high from start to finish against Robredo, despite rain drops falling in the second set.
Djokovic has won his last five matches against Robredo, who leads the tour with 19 wins on clay this year.
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, improving to 14-6 on clay this year, including a runner-up result in Buenos
Aires, Argentina, in February. He will next face Gonzalez, who rallied to beat net-charging Jurgen Melzer of Austria 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.
Gonzalez was the runner-up in Rome two years ago and is 10-1 on clay this season. Melzer won 40 of 65 points at the net but dropped his serve late in the third set when Gonzalez hit a backhand return winner up the line.
Gonzalez snapped his racket in half early in the match when he was struggling to counter Melzer's attacking game.