Rafael Nadal, bidding for a fifth consecutive Monte Carlo Masters title, reached the third round on Wednesday by racking up his 134th clay-court win, against just four defeats, since 2005.
Roger Federer also breezed through to stay on course for a fourth consecutive final appearance as the build-up to the French Open continues.
Federer saw off Italian Andreas Seppi 6-4, 6-4 and will face Swiss compatriot Stanislas Wawrinka for a place in the quarter-finals.
Nadal recovered from dropping serve twice to beat dogged Argentine Juan Ignacio Chela 6-2, 6-3 and will next face Ecuador’s Nicolas Lapentti, who defeated Marat Safin.
The volatile Russian, who squandered a 5-2 third-set lead as well as three match points, flirted with disqualification as his hopes crumbled.
Federer, the second seed, was kept on his toes as Seppi saved three match points in the penultimate game on his own serve, before the Swiss brought proceedings to a close after 1 hour 23 minutes.
“Maybe I could have made it easier for myself in the second [set],” Federer said. “I had some opportunities. He hung in there and I didn’t play my best.”
Nadal is hoping to repeat his superman act of past clay-court seasons as the four-time French Open champion begins another long haul toward Paris.
“I played some games well and also had some terrible games,” said Nadal, who has defeated Federer in the last three finals. “In the beginning of the second, after two games, I was really bad. I was up and down during all the match.”
Qualifier Lapentti won a roller-coaster three-and-a-half-hour marathon against Safin.
The Russian lived up to his reputation, wasting three match points and coming within a hairs breadth of a racket smash.
Lapentti held on through the drama to advance 7-6 (8/6), 2-6, 7-6 (8/6).
Croatian veteran Ivan Ljubicic upset fifth seed Juan Martin Del Potro 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, but his 14th seeded compatriot Marin Cilic was humbled by Fabio Fognini 6-2, 6-0.
Nikolay Davydenko, seeded sixth, returned to the circuit after two months out with a heel injury and enjoyed a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Croatian giant Ivo Karlovic.
Spanish seventh seed Fernando Verdasco advanced over German Philip Kohlschreiber 6-3, 6-4, while Argentine No. 12 David Nalbandian staged a fightback to get past Spaniard Marcello Granollers 4-6, 6-3, 6-1.
Wawrinka, the 13th seed, lines up against Federer after winning a 2 hour, 37 minute marathon over Argentine Marcello Vassallo Arguello 2-6, 7-5, 6-2.
■FAMILY CIRCLE CUPREUTERS, CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
Second seed Venus Williams needed three sets to beat battling Indian Sania Mirza 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 in the second round of the Family Circle Cup on Wednesday.
After dominating the opening set, Williams found herself in trouble in the second with the 100th-ranked Indian producing some great defense to save 10 out of 11 break points, while breaking the American twice.
Williams finally took control of the match in the third set, dominating Mirza to finally move on after a battle lasting almost two hours.
Williams will face Sabine Lisicki, seeded 16th, in the third round after the German beat Slovakia’s Lenka Wienerova 6-4, 6-3.
American Melanie Oudin also advanced to the third round with an upset 7-5, 6-0 victory over No. 29 Aleksandra Wozniak of Canada, the ninth seed.
Fifth-seed Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark continued her progress with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Russian Alla Kudryavtseva, but No. 8 seed Patty Schnyder of Switzerland was eliminated by Russia’s Elena Vesnina 2-6, 7-6, 5-7.