MONTE CARLO - Roger Federer's comeback from knee surgery is still on track after he cruised to a routine victory over Roberto Bautista Agut in Thursday's action at the Monte Carlo Masters.
The world No.3 is playing in his first tournament since the Australian Open after injuring his knee while running a bath for his young daughters earlier this year. Backing up his opening victory over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, Federer swatted aside the challenge of 14th-seed Bautista Agut in straight sets 6-2, 6-4 to book his place in the quarterfinals.
Joining Federer in the last eight are a host of big names looking to capitalise on the early exit of world No.1 Novak Djokovic, who was beaten in three sets by the little-known Jiri Vesely on Wednesday.
Among them were Andy Murray, who came from a set and a break down to beat Benoit Paire, and eight-time champion Rafael Nadal, who overcame a shaky first set to defeat Austria's Dominic Thiem. World No.2 Murray eventually outlasted his French opponent Paire to earn a 2-6, 7-5, 7-5 victory and a last eight clash with Milos Raonic. "[Paire] played extremely well and I was a little slow. It was the first time that I had played him," Murray told Sky Sports after his victory. "He has a difficult game to work out. Maybe today was a little lucky, but I was potentially a little unlucky in the last couple of tournaments."
Raonic, meanwhile, saw off Damir Dzumhur 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(5) to claim his spot in the quarterfinals. Fifth seed Nadal battled to save 15 of 16 break points in the first set as he claimed a 7-6, 6-3 victory over Thiem. The Austrian beat Nadal on clay in February at the Argentina Open, but this time he saw too many opportunities slip away against the Spaniard.
Next up for Nadal is a meeting with fourth seed Stan Wawrinka, who swatted aside the challenge of France's Gilles Simon with a 6-1, 6-2 victory.