Rafael Nadal predictably proved a clay court bridge too far for Kei Nishikori on Monday at the French Open but predicted the Japanese will be a top 10 player soon.
The Spaniard, looking to become the first man to win the same Grand Slam singles crown for an eighth time, was celebrating his 27th birthday.
And Nishikori was unable to spoil the Mallorcan's centre court party as the 23-year-old from Shimane could manage only eight games in going down to a 6-4, 6-1, 6-3 defeat.
Yet Nadal still had praise for his efforts and offered some crumbs of comfort.
"He's a player with a lot of talent," said the Mallorcan.
"Now he's in the top of the ranking and he's improving; playing round of 16 here in Roland Garros is great. He had a good tournament in Madrid, too, quarterfinals.
"I think he's a candidate to be top 10 without any doubt."
Nishikori failed in his quest to become just the second Japanese man to reach the last eight after Jiro Satoh, who made the quarter-finals in 1931 and 1933.
He said afterwards he wished he had been more aggressive.
"The second set, I think I was a little bit, you know, too passive or like defensive. He was hitting more forehands. I was running side to side more than the first set," the Japanese conceded.
Nishikori, who last year became the first Japanese man to reach the quarter-finals at the Australian Open in 80 years before falling to Andy Murray, became Nadal's 56th victim in 57 matches at Roland Garros as the 13th-seed proved unable to go one better than Fumiteru Nakano, who reached the last 16 on the Parisian clay in 1938.
Despite his loss, Nishikori, whose Australian exploit saw him emulate 1995 Wimbledon quarter-finalist Shuzo Matsuoka as the only Japanese man to reach the last eight at a Slam, improved greatly on two previous second round losses in Paris.
Last year he missed the event with an abdominal strain but came in this time having seen off Roger Federer in Madrid to show his burgeoning clay prowess.