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By Ajay Tyagi
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The pre-quarterfinal stage proved quite easy for most of the top seeds including defending champion Novak Djokovic, who breezed past Spaniard Tommy Robredo 6-1, 6-1 in just 63 minutes of gruelling play.
"I was in control of the match," said Djokovic. "I think I played quite patient, but then when I needed to step it up I did. It was quite strange because Tommy was making a lot of unforced errors, so he didn't put a lot of pressure on me."
Second seed Roger Federer followed in the footsteps and avenged his 2008 loss to Czech Radek Stepanek with a convincing 6-4, 6-1 victory over the 16th seed in just 68 minutes.
“This year was very different,” said Federer. “I could read his first serve. His second serve was not a problem either. I didn't have a problem even to attack his second serve, whereas last year I was just trying to get the ball into play, and then obviously he was able to mix it up and make me doubt much more. This year was good. I had the control from the baseline, and he didn't have the opportunities like he did have last year. I played well really when I had to, so I'm really happy with the performance today.
“Sure, when you walk on the court you still have sort of the highlights from that match. But you try to give it another shot. It's a different match. I'm still always going to be the favourite against him. I just tried to get off to a good start and I did, which is perfect.”
Top seed and clay court maestro Rafael Nadal granted just a game to his Swedish opponent as he sailed through in his match up with Robin Soderling 6-1, 6-0 in 84 minutes of play.
"I think the match was really tough. Not the result, but, yes, the match," said Nadal. "The beginning I was winning 4-1, but at the same time I can be losing 4-1. I think I played really well. One of my best matches on clay sure this year. I don't know of my career, but I'm playing at the very good level today, so I'm very happy."
Nadal, who is bidding for his fourth Rome title in five years, next faces Fernando Verdasco, who got past Frenchman Richard Gasquet 7-5, 6-4.
Though in one of the best matches of the day, Juan Martin Del Potro knocked out last year's finalist Stanislas Wawrinka 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-3 after two hours and 50 minutes of tussle.
Other winners of the day included Juan Monaco, Mischa Zverev and Fernando Gonzalez who defeated Jurgen Melzer 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.
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