Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic posted victories on Thursday to reach the quarter-finals of the Madrid Masters as the pair advanced towards a potential weekend title showdown.
Number one Djokovic, who lost in the first round of his clay start a month ago at Monte Carlo, reached the last eight over Roberto Bautista Agut 6-2, 6-1 in 68 minutes with five breaks of serve.
Defending champion Murray overcame a slow start to defeat Gilles Simon for a fourth time on the clay of the capital.
The second seed earned a 6-4, 6-2 victory over the 16th seed from France; Murray won the title a year ago with an upset of Rafael Nadal.
"Because conditions were a bit faster, I was able to get a lot more free points on my serve," Murray said. "It was a good performance. I played smart tennis, that was the difference.
"Conditions were different from the past few days. It was quite cool and a little bit breezy and a bit heavier. After the first six or seven games I really started to hit the ball well."
He will face Tomas Berdych after the eighth seed beat Spain's David Ferrer 7-6 (10-8), 7-5. Japan's Kei Nishikori, the number six, joined the last eight as he put our Richard Gasquet 6-4, 7-5.
Spain's fifth seed Rafael Nadal was playing his third-round match later against American Sam Querrey.
Four-time winner Nadal is looking for a 12th consecutive clay victory after titles in Monte Carlo and Barcelona, and is seeking his 15th win in a row over Americans.
Djokovic, point his spring towards a first French Open crown, moved into a clear lead in matches won this season, pulling ahead of Dominic Thiem to stand 30-2.
He stands 4-0 over Bautista Agut, who he does not quantify as a typical Spanish player.
"He doesn't play with a lot of spin like most Spaniards. But he's been an established top 20 player for a few years. I didn't want to give him too much time on his shots," Djokovic said.
"Today's conditions were slower (due to clouds) but that if fine for my game, I hope it stays like this."
In the women's quarter-finals, American qualifier Louisa Chirico continued her Spanish fairytale week by advancing to the semi-finals over Australian Daria Gavrilova 7-6 (7-1), 6-2.
Chirico, ranked 130th, beat former number one Ana Ivanovic before being handed a walkover when Victoria Azaranka withdraw injured; she will close in on a top-100 ranking.
"I can't really describe how I feel, I'm definitely excited," the winner said. "My adrenaline is still going a little bit. I'm very happy to get the win today. It was a tough match."
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