Monaco: Rafael Nadal has rolled through Grigor Dimitrov with his characteristic ease as he secured his place in the quarter-finals at the Monte Carlo Masters with a 6-4, 6-1 victory.
The match was not quite the demolition job experienced by Roberto Bautista Agut the previous day, but it was a gratifying triumph for Nadal who will come away knowing he is again close to peak level.
He had to withdraw from Indian Wells and the Miami Open after more pain in his right knee, but his mood and his power tennis were back on the upswing as he dispelled any lingering doubt here in Monaco.
The bid for a record 12th title, moreover, still looks very much on course after two days of successive play. Nadal will next face Guido Pella, who he has defeated both times they have played.
For Nadal, it almost seemed too easy.
He needed two match points to take the win, and in a match peppered with errors – they both totalled 21 – it was fitting he won when Dimitrov hit the net.
Earlier on Court Rainier III, world No.1 Novak Djokovic also enjoyed success as he topped Taylor Fritz 6-3, 6-0 in an entertaining but thoroughly predictable third-round match.
The suspense was mostly gone shortly after the match began, and after one hour eight minutes it was all over for real as Djokovic checked the young phenom Fritz quite decisively without having to break a sweat.
Djokovic is now back in the quarter-finals and will look forward to rekindling a rivalry with Daniil Medvedev.
He has won all three times the pair have met, though this will be the first on clay.
Djokovic seems to have regained some of the confidence he might have lost after early exits at Indian Wells and then the Miami Open.
While Djokovic cruised, Medvedev needed three sets to dismiss Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-2, 1-6, 6-4.
Marco Cecchinato beat Pella 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 and Lorenzo Sonego downed Cameron Norrie 6-2, 7-5.
The shock exit of the day came after Nadal’s victory, when Dominic Thiem, who beat Nadal at his own game on the clay last year in Madrid, was defeated 6-3, 6-3 by Dusan Lajovic.