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September 26, 2017

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Nadal beats Sock to reach Italian Open quarterfinals

ROME — Rafael Nadal's preparations for the French Open continued apace as he swept past 13th-seeded Jack Sock 6-3, 6-4 Thursday to ease into the Italian Open quarterfinals and extend his winning streak to 17 matches.

Fourth-seeded Nadal broke Sock's serve twice in the second set and served out the match to set up a last-eight meeting with Dominic Thiem, who was beaten by Nadal in the Madrid Open final last week.

"I am here to try my best. I know (it) is a tough tournament. I don't have an easy draw here, a tough one," Nadal said. "Dominic is the player that is having probably more success now on clay, no? So will be another tough battle tomorrow."

The 30-year-old Nadal has won consecutive clay-court tournaments in Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid. The Spaniard is aiming for an eighth title at the Foro Italico as he prepares for the French Open in less than two weeks.

"I think I can play a little bit more aggressive than what I did tonight. I think I have to do it," Nadal said. "But in general terms I am happy with the way that I played, obviously."

Thiem also beat an American but had to save two match points in a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7) victory over Sam Querrey.

Four-time champion Novak Djokovic is also safely through to the quarterfinals after beating Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 6-4. Second-seeded Djokovic next plays Juan Martin del Potro after the Argentine ousted seventh-seeded Kei Nishikori 7-6 (4), 6-3.

Djokovic seemed in full control when he went 3-1 up in the second set but allowed the Spaniard to fight back to 4-4 before going on to seal the match.

Bautista Agut could have gone 5-4 up in the second set after Djokovic appeared to send the ball long but the umpire said it was in. Television replays showed the ball was out.

Instead it was Djokovic who broke to take a 5-4 lead and won the match when he had a forehand ruled in.

Third-seeded Stan Wawrinka went out of the tournament after losing 7-6 (1), 6-4 to American John Isner, who served up 19 aces in their match.

"It's a situation for me where I'm going out there against the No. 3 player in the world. Maybe I have a little bit less to lose than he does," Isner said. "I went out there with the belief that, if I played well and executed my game plan, that I could walk off that court with a win. That's what happened today."

Isner grabbed the only break of the match at 3-3 in the second set before comfortably serving out the match on his first attempt after Wawrinka had saved two match points on his serve.

Isner next faces another big server in sixth-seeded Marin Cilic, who dismissed ninth-seeded David Goffin 6-3, 6-4.

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