Rafael Nadal gave a much improved performance to advance into the quarter-finals of the Barcelona Open on Thursday, dispatching Spanish compatriot and crowd favourite David Ferrer 6-3, 6-3.
Nadal will meet Jan-Lennard Struff in the last eight after the German claimed his second big scalp of the week by overcoming last year's finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 after knocking out 10th seed David Goffin the day before.
Japan's Kei Nishikori eased into the last eight with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Felix Auger Aliassime and will play the only other remaining Spaniard in the tournament Roberto Carballes Baena who saw off Chilean Christian Garin in straight sets.
World number two and 11-times Barcelona champion Nadal had produced a scrappy display against Leonardo Mayer on Wednesday, losing a set for the first time in four years at the tournament, but he showed more spark and composure against Ferrer.
Nadal broke the 37-year-old Ferrer, who will retire from the game next month after the Madrid Open, in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead in the opener but play was halted due to rain with the score at 5-3.
Nadal promptly saw out the set when play resumed and broke Ferrer in the first game of the second but then lost a service game, which made it 2-2.
The Mallorcan broke again and then took a 5-3 lead, spurning three match points due to two marginal calls which left him visibly annoyed with the line judge.
Nadal finally closed the match out at the fourth opportunity as Ferrer could only find the net.
Nadal led fans in applauding Ferrer as the defeat signalled his last appearance at the Barcelona Open.
"Losing to Rafa makes me proud, I'm happy with the game as I did what I could, I gave everything I had but I tip my hat to Rafa," Ferrer said.
"It was difficult, I started well but the court was slower when the rain started coming down, that damaged me but I still played a competitive game."
Nadal paid tribute to Ferrer, who he beat in the 2013 French Open final, and was pleased with his own display.
"It's his decision but on a tennis level he doesn't have to retire, he's struggled with injuries but he is playing very well this year. After all his years fighting and giving us all joy he deserves the reception he got," Nadal said.
"I had to improve on yesterday, not just the result but overall. This was important for David but for me it was important to do better and play with more energy than yesterday I did that so I can go back to my hotel feeling much happier."
Chilean Nicolas Jarry, who beat highly-fancied world number three Alexander Zverev already this week, claimed another high-profile victory by beating Grigor Dimitrov 2-6 6-4 7-6(2).
Jarry will face Daniil Medvedev of Russia while third seed Dominic Thiem will play against Argentine Guido Pella after the Austrian enjoyed a comfortable straight-sets win over Spaniard Jaume Munar.
Osaka breezes past Hsieh to reach Stuttgart last eight
World number one Naomi Osaka made a winning start to her claycourt season by beating Taiwan's Hsieh Su-wei 6-4, 6-3 on Thursday to move into the quarter-finals of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix in Stuttgart.
The twice grand slam champion, who has yet to win a title on clay, found little resistance as she avenged her defeat to Hsieh in Miami last month.
"If there is one positive thing I can say about myself, it's that I learn quickly," Osaka said. "So, for me it has been fun because I like to apply what I did wrong in the past, and I think that is what I was able to do today."
A break was enough for Osaka to win the first set as she looked somewhat uncomfortable on Stuttgart's quick indoor clay, designed to be similar to next month's French Open courts.
There was nothing wrong with her serve, however, as she fired seven aces during the contest.
After going 2-0 up in the second set, Osaka grew in confidence and broke again to seal her first win on clay this season on her first match point.
Victory also meant she will hold on to her world number one ranking after this week.
Osaka will next face Croatia's Donna Vekic who beat Daria Kasatkina 6-1, 7-5.
World number five Angelique Kerber had little trouble in the all-German battle against wild card Andrea Petkovic, beating the former top-10 player 6-2, 6-4.
She will play sixth seed Kiki Bertens who fired 20 aces as she battled back from a set down to beat Belinda Bencic 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Former world number one Victoria Azarenka of Belarus stunned fourth seed and defending champion Karolina Pliskova, needing two hours and 13 minutes to battle from a set down to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. She next takes on Estonian Anett Kontaveit.