- Rome Masters
Murray sets up Nadal quarter-final
Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal will meet for the first time in more than two and a half years after both moved into the last eight of the Rome Masters.
On the day he turned 27, Murray was broken in his first service game by Jurgen Melzer but recovered to take the set to a tie-break. After swapping breaks in the second set, Murray broke again for 4-3 and held onto his serve before seeing out the set and completing and completing a 7-6(1) 6-4 victory.
Nadal went a set down to Mikhail Youzhny before winning 11 games in a row to set up the Murray showdown. Youzhny saved Nadal's first match point to halt the streak before pulling the final set back to 5-1, but Nadal made no mistake with his final service game to complete a 6-7 6-2 6-1 victory.
Nadal has won the Rome Masters every year since 2005 bar two, when Novak Djokovic triumphed in 2008 and 2011.
Murray and Nadal last met in October 2011 in the final of the Japan Open with the British No.1 winning 3-6 6-2 6-0 - and he is relishing the opportunity of facing the Spaniard once again.
"It will be a great match for me with the French Open just round the corner because I'll see exactly where my game is at and what I need to do to improve," Murray told Sky Sports.
"I haven't played him for a long time regardless of the last time on clay - I didn't play him at all when Ivan [Lendl] was coaching me so I think it's been at least two-and-a-half, three years since we last played.
"So it would be good for me in case I had to play him at the French Open to know the things that work and don't work against him because obviously both of our games will have changed in the last three years."
After an ignominious third-round exit to Santiago Giraldo at the Madrid Open last week, Murray hinted he could step up his search for a new coach following his split with Ivan Lendl in March.
And Murray feels he is still ironing out all the kinks on clay as he continues his preparation for the French Open, which gets underway on May 25.
"There's obviously some things I'd like to do better," he added. "It's a surface that takes me time to get used to, the movements on it, there are still some mistakes on it in terms of sliding almost too early when I don't need to.
"A lot of people talk about sliding on the clay courts but you don't actually need to do it that much. When you move up to the drop shots at the net, yes, and when you're pushed extremely wide but if you slide on the court too much it's not good.
"A few times I was doing that when I didn't need to so I needed to work on that, but yeah, for the most part I moved pretty well and chased down as many balls as possible."
Like Nadal, Novak Djokovic was made to work for his quarter-final spot against Philipp Kohlschreiber. The German took the first set, before Djokovic shifted through the gears to win the second and third sets comfortably in a 4-6 6-2 6-1 victory.
Djokovic next faces fifth seed David Ferrer, who needed a little more than an hour to beat Ernests Gulbis 6-2 6-3.
Elsewhere, Stanislas Wawrinka suffered a shock defeat to Tommy Haas, going down 5-7 6-2 6-3.
Wawrinka was also stunned in the second round in Madrid last week, losing 1-6 6-2 6-4 to qualifier Dominic Thiem.
The oldest player in the draw at 36, Haas hadn't beaten a top-10 player since taking out then No.1 Novak Djokovic in Miami more than a year ago.
"These things don't happen too often anymore so I still take them and I'm really proud of them," the German said.
Wawrinka cited a back injury that occurred in colder conditions during his opening win over Spanish qualifier Pere Riba.
"I couldn't move too well," he said. "It's really nothing serious. It's just painful and I need some rest - maybe a few days."
Haas will face Grigor Dimitrov in the quarter-finals after the Bulgarian beat Tomas Berdych 6-7(3) 6-2 6-2.
Meanwhile, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga's miserable season continued when he went down 7-6(5) 6-4 to Milos Raonic. The Canadian will face Jeremy Chardy in the last eight after he beat Ivan Dodig 6-3 6-2.