Shapovalov, who is ranked a career-high No.29 this week, stunned Nadal in the third round in Montreal a year ago to deny the Spaniard a chance at regaining the No.1 ranking. But Rafa road his forehand and lost just five points on serve en route to an easy win. The Spaniard is able to keep a rally alive even when under the most severe pressure, making winning just one point against him a herculean task at times. I got the break in the 3-all. He then stunned Madrid finalist Dominic Thiem, surviving a mid-match resurgence from the Austrian to advance a 6-4 1-6 6-3 victor.
Seeking an 8th Rome title, ahead will be Italian bad boy Fabio Fognini who bested Peter Gojowczyk 6-4, 6-4.
The Spaniard leads head to head meetings 10-3, and the Italian beat Nadal thrice all in 2015. Nadal lost their only other match at the Rogers Cup in Montreal last summer. "[Fognini] is a tough player and I'm looking forward to the challenge".
Italy's top player came out wearing a black shirt with a red lightning bolt design down his chest and he was energized from the start, grazing the flower beds lining the court to return Thiem's high-bouncing topspin serves and frustrating the Austrian with well-placed lobs and touch volleys.
Rome: Germany's Alexander Zverev kept his Italian Open title defence on track but needed eight match points to get past Briton Kyle Edmund and reach the quarter-finals.
Fognini's streak didn't end there.
Also, ninth-seeded David Goffin was leading 6-2, 4-5 when Juan Martin del Potro retired because of a groin injury; and 10th-seeded Pablo Carreno Busta beat Aljaz Bedene 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-2. Here in Rome, again, not the best draw, I would say.More news: Suspended Pennsylvania school teacher's murder was 'a crime of passion,' investigators say
"But, in general, I feel good for Paris". Defending French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko also had to fight hard before overcoming Britain's Johanna Konta 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.
"I'm happy. I haven't had too many matches of this quality of my tennis in the past 12 months", Djokovic said.
"I only had one day to prepare but I adjusted well".
"It was very important I went in with a positive attitude, with an attitude to win. So, hopefully, it's going to continue in this direction". "I expect the same tomorrow". "I was fighting well from the first to the last ball".
Djokovic leads the Japanese star 12-2 overall.
The Romanian, a finalist in Rome past year, is on her way to holding her top ranking as she next plays France's Caroline Garcia or American Sloane Stephens.