ROME - Rafael Nadal brushed aside the challenge of Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov with a 6-4, 6-1 victory to reach the Italian Open quarter-finals on Thursday.
The 31-year-old will face Italian Fabio Fognini in the last eight as he looks to retake the world number one ranking from Roger Federer by winning an eighth Rome title this week.
Nadal has already won his 11th titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona during the current clay-court season, but has lost in the quarter-finals in each of the last three years in Italy.
He was far too strong for Shapovalov, taking the opening set with a break in the seventh game before racing through the second to gain a measure of revenge for his shock defeat by the 19-year-old in Montreal last year.
"I think Rafa played incredible today," said Shapovalov. "He's been playing at a really high level for this whole clay season. So, you know, it's credit to him. He was just simply too good today."
Top seed Nadal recorded his 20th clay-court win of the year while Shapovalov will at least have the consolation of becoming the Canadian number one on Monday.
"It was a solid match for me," said Nadal. "I started with some mistakes on the return. But with my serve, I didn't lose many points.
"At the beginning, I really think that he was serving big. I got the break in the 3-all. And then the match changed. He probably stopped to serve that big a little bit, and I was a little bit more relaxed."
The Spaniard will next take on Fognini, a player he knows well having played 14 times and holds a 10-3 record against including five wins in their most recent matches.
Fognini eased past Germany's Peter Gojowczyk 6-4, 6-4.
Defending champion Alexander Zverev of Germany kept his title defence on track but needed eight match points to see off Briton Kyle Edmund 7-5, 7-6 (13/11).
For Zverev it was an 11th consecutive win after back-to-back title runs at Munich and Madrid.
The 21-year-old will play Belgian David Goffin after the ninth seed advanced when Argentine fifth seed Juan Martin del Potro retired while trailing 6-2, 4-5 with a groin injury.
"I played really a good tactic, making him run a lot from both side," said Goffin.
"And then I don't know what happened. All of a sudden in the second, he felt something.
"Always he looks like tired, but he's not. And he's really dangerous in that case. I was surprised when he stopped at 5-4."
Halep, Sharapova advance
In the women's tournament, Simona Halep boosted her bid to retain her world number one ranking as the top seed advanced to the quarter-finals after American Madison Keys withdrew injured with a painful rib.
The Romanian, a finalist in Rome last year, is on her way to holding her top ranking as she next plays France's Caroline Garcia or American Sloane Stephens.
Halep needed to reach at least the last eight and go further than world number two Caroline Wozniacki to retain the top-ranking going into the French Open.
Three-time winner Maria Sharapova ousted Daria Gavrilova 6-3, 6-4 and will play fifth seed and French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko who saw off Britain's Johanna Konta 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Venus Williams fell to her second defeat in a week to Estonia's Anett Kontaveit losing in the third round match in straight sets in 1hr 19min.
The 22-year-old Kontaveit won through 6-2, 7-6 (7/3) against the 37-year-old American who was seeded eighth in a tournament she won nearly two decades ago to 1999.
Kontaveit, who also beat Williams last week in Madrid, next plays either second seed Wozniacki or Latvia's Anastasija Sevastova for a place in the semi-finals.
Defending champion Elina Svitolina of the Ukraine fought back from a first set wipeout against Darya Kasatkina to win 0-6, 6-3, 6-2.