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Nadal on the march in Madrid

Rafael Nadal continued to make serene progress in the defence of his ATP Madrid Open title, booking his place in the last eight with a 6-1 6-4 win over Jarkko Nieminen.

Having only dropped one game in his opening victory over Juan Monaco, the top seed looked set for another straightforward outing when he won nine of the opening 10 games.

Nieminen eventually put up a challenge in the second set, breaking back before creating break-point opportunities at 4-4.

However, Nadal held on to edge ahead again and then duly secured victory by breaking in the next, showing he is beginning to hit top form as the French Open looms large on the horizon.

The reigning world no 1 had arrived in the Spanish capital off the back of surprise defeats on his favoured clay surface to David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro at the Monte Carlo Masters and Barcelona Open respectively.

"I am happy because I think until 3-0 in the second set I played the best I have on clay since I started in Monte Carlo," said Nadal.

Rhythm

"It's just a question of finding my rhythm, my level of play and I am doing that little by little. Tomorrow will be another tough match and I need to prepare well for that.

"I did what I needed to do today and I just need to find that little bit more consistency which I lost after 3-0 in the second set."

Next up for the 13-time Grand Slam winner is a meeting with sixth seed Tomas Berdych, the Czech coming from behind to win 3-6 6-3 6-2 against 12th seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria.

Meanwhile, Japan's Kei Nishikori continued his fine form on clay, the recent tournament winner in Barcelona seeing off the eighth-seeded Milos Raonic in two tie-breaks, 7-6 (7/5) 7-6 (7/5).

Next in line for Nishikori is home favourite Feliciano Lopez who progressed without even picking up his racket after youngster Dominic Thiem - a sensational winner against Stanislas Wawrinka in the last round - was forced to pull out of their clash through illness.

Big-hitting Ernests Gulbis was an impressive 6-3 6-4 victor against Croatia's Marin Cilic and will next meet Ferrer, a 6-4 6-4 winner over John Isner.