Montreal: Rafael Nadal breezed past Philipp Petzschner 6-3, 6-2 in third-round play at the Rogers Cup on Thursday in the first real test of the tendinitis in both knees that kept him sidelined for the past 10 weeks.
Nadal's first match on Wednesday was cut short when Spanish compatriot David Ferrer retired midway through the first set with a sore knee of his own.
"The movements were a little bit better, but I need more matches to get the rhythm," said Nadal, the defending champion.
"I need to adjust the legs and feet more to play some shots, but I'm very happy because I'm in the quarterfinals, which is more than I expected when I came here."
Nadal was among the eight top-ranked players in the world to reach the quarterfinals, the first time that's happened at an ATP tournament since rankings were introduced in 1973. They include Roger Federer, Nadal, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Andy Roddick, Juan Martin Del Porto, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Nikolay Davydenko.
"Certainly the top six have been putting up results very consistently this year," Roddick said. "This is probably one of the most consistent years I've had and I'm still looking at No. 5. There's a precedent being set by the top guys now."
Nadal led 3-0 in the first set and never looked back, as the Spanish left-hander advanced to a quarterfinal against sixth-seeded Del Potro. The Argentine, coming off a win over Roddick in the Washington final last weekend, downed Victor Hanescu of Romania 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
"I know I'm not the favorite for the match, but it gives me a chance to keep improving in my level," Nadal said. "He's No. 6 in the world. He won in Washington and he won a tough match (against Hanescu), so he's coming with big confidence. He has a good serve and good shots from the baseline. He's a very tough opponent for me right now."
Nadal, playing his first tournament since losing in the fourth round of the French Open, had little trouble with Petzschner. The German did himself in with several unforced errors, particularly early in the first set, before a sellout crowd of 11,490 at Uniprix Stadium.
Federer, in his first tournament since taking time off while his wife gave birth to twin girls, shook off some rust in a 6-3, 7-6 (5) win over fellow Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka.
Federer avenged a loss to 22nd-ranked Wawrinka on clay in Monte Carlo this year, and will next play Tsonga, a 6-3, 6-3 winner over his ninth-ranked French compatriot Gilles Simon.
Murray had little trouble dispatching former world No. 1 Juan Carlos Ferrero 6-1, 6-3, and Davydenko edged 11th-seeded Fernando Gonzalez of Chile 7-6 (2), 7-5.
Murray, who will face Davydenko in the quarterfinals, has a chance to overtake Nadal for the No. 2 world ranking if the Brit goes far enough and the Spaniard falters.
Nadal said the ranking "doesn't matter. In the end, the important thing is to play well. The thing that makes me happy is to be competitive and win tournaments, no?"
Roddick will face Djokovic in a battle of strong hardcourt players, after fighting off a strong service game from 10th-seeded Fernando Verdasco to defeat the Spanish southpaw 7-6 (2), 4-6, 7-6 (5). The American is 32-8 in tiebreakers this year.
Djokovic, the fourth seed, downed Mikhail Youzhny of Russia 6-3, 6-4.
It will be the sixth meeting between Roddick and Djokovic, with Roddick having a 3-2 edge, including wins in their two meetings this year — at the Australian Open, where Djokovic retired in the fourth set from cramps and heat stress, and at Indian Wells.
"They were both on hardcourts, so hopefully I can get a chance to play better and win," Djokovic said. "We all know he's the biggest server in the game, next to Ivo Karlovic, and he's playing better since he started working with a new coach (Larry Stefanki)."
Roddick improved to 9-2 in his career against Verdasco, but the nearly three-hour match in muggy conditions wasn't easy. He's playing his second tournament since his thrilling five-set loss to Federer in the Wimbledon final.
Djokovic's first meeting with Roddick was a win in the quarterfinals at the Rogers Cup two years ago. Djokovic went on to defeat Nadal in the semifinals and Federer in the final to claim one of the first big victories of his career.
The same scenario is possible this year, as the draw has a potential semifinal meeting with Nadal and a potential meeting with Federer in the final.
"Most of us guys didn't play any events prior to Montreal (since Wimbledon in June)," said Djokovic. "You want to play the best players in the world to test yourself, to see where you are at the moment and see if you can win against them."