efe-epaRome

Spanish world No. 2 Rafael Nadal moved a step closer to his first ATP Tour title in nine months, routing Georgia's Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-1, 6-0 Thursday night in just over an hour to reach the quarterfinals of the Italian Open.

Like many of the competitors in the men's and women's singles draws, Nadal played both his second and third round matches on Thursday due to a near-total rainout the day before.

But the defending champion barely broke a sweat in either contest.

Just a few hours after brushing aside Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-0, 6-1 in 66 minutes, Nadal needed just 62 minutes to dismiss Basilashvili by a nearly identical score.

The eight-time Rome Masters champion and 11-time French Open champion has yet to reach a clay-court final this season and has not won a title on any surface since capturing the Rogers Cup on hard courts in Toronto last August.

But he looked in ominous form against the Georgian.

Nadal was very efficient in his service games and particularly impressive on return, winning 20 of Basilashvili's 32 first-serve points in the match and breaking his opponent's serve on five occasions.

"Playing two matches is a very dangerous day. I was able to manage it well," Nadal was quoted as saying afterward on the ATP Tour's Web site. "I played well, especially I think better in the afternoon than the morning. Yeah, (I'm) happy about that level in the afternoon."

Next up for the world No. 2 in Friday's quarterfinals will be 38th-ranked countryman Fernando Verdasco, who spent two hours and 43 minutes on court in upsetting Austrian world No. 4 Dominic Thiem 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 early Thursday and then needed two hours and nine minutes to finish off a 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 win over Russia's Karen Khachanov later in the day.

Serbian world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, meanwhile, was nearly as dominant as Nadal on Thursday.

The four-time Italian Open champion started his day by defeating Canada's Denis Shapovalov 6-1, 6-3 and then cruised past Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 6-0.

He will next take on big-hitting Argentine Juan Martin del Potro, the world No. 9, who won both of his matches Thursday in straight sets.

Afterward, Djokovic noted that neither he nor Del Potro had spent an inordinate amount of time on court and should be in good shape for Friday.

"Of course, he probably prefers because of style of play hard court more. He played equally well throughout his career on clay," the ATP Tour's site quoted Djokovic as saying. "With that serve and forehand, it doesn't really matter what surface you play on. It's quite a weapon that he has."

The winner of the Djokovic-Del Potro contest will face either Japanese world No. 6 Kei Nishikori or Argentine world No. 24 Diego Schwartzman in Saturday's semifinals.

Friday's other men's singles quarterfinal will pit Swiss great Roger Federer against either Greek rising star Stefanos Tsitsipas or 2019 Monte-Carlo Masters champion Fabio Fognini of Italy, who are squaring off in Thursday night's final third-round match.

Federer edged Croatia's Borna Coric 2-6, 6-4, 7-6 (9-7) in his second match of the day on Thursday.

In women's singles, Japanese world No. 1 Naomi Osaka moved through to the quarterfinals with a pair of 6-3, 6-3 victories over Dominika Cibulkova and Mihaela Buzarnescu, respectively, and will take on 2019 Madrid Open champion Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands on Friday.

Osaka also secured the top seed at the French Open when Romanian world No. 2 Simona Halep was stunned by Czech teenager Marketa Vondrousova 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 on Thursday.

Halep said afterward she sustained a minor leg injury during the match.

The Italian Open is among the most prestigious clay-court tournaments in tennis and a key tune-up for the French Open, which gets under way on May 26.

am/mc