Rome: World number one and undisputed clay king Rafael Nadal survived a scare on Wednesday at the clay Rome Masters as he overcame a sloppy start to beat Italian qualifier Paolo Lorenzi 6-7, 6-4, 6-0.
But there were no such difficulties for man of the moment Novak Djokovic who took his winning streak this year to 33 matches with an embarrassingly one-sided 6-0, 6-3 destruction of Pole Lukasz Kubot.
Following his defeat to Djokovic in the Madrid final last week, the 24-year-old Nadal came close to losing a second successive match on clay for the first time in his career before eventually romping home in the deciding set.
Everything seemed to be going to plan for Nadal when he broke the world number 148 in the sixth game of the opening set but four forehand errors saw him give up a break-back to love.
The first set went to a tie break where Nadal netted a forehand to hand Lorenzi a set-point, which he converted when the Spaniard missed with a wild smash.
Nadal again went up a break in the second set but he lost that advantage in the sixth game after he sent a cross court backhand pass the wrong side of the side-line.
Nadal forced two break points in the next game but Lorenzo saved them both including the first with a cheeky dropper, to nudge in front 4-3.
However, that was the last game he would win as Nadal stepped on the accelerator and reeled off nine games in a row.
Djokovic`s victory edged him closer to American John McEnroe`s 27-year-old record of a 42-match winning start to a season.
This tie was never in any doubt and Kubot never looked like improving on his two previous straight set defeats to the Serbian 23-year-old.
Having played, and won, in the previous two weeks in Belgrade and Madrid, Djokovic said he was happy to have got through a match without expending too much energy.
"I played quite well, well enough to win but I was playing an opponent who made a lot of mistakes, especially in the first set," he said.
"After that he played a bit better but we didn`t have many baseline exchanges.
"I have to be happy because I spent just one hour on court and that`s important for me to save energy for the next games."
Djokovic will play Stanislas Wawrinka next after the Swiss 14th seed beat Italian wild card Filippo Volandri 6-1, 3-6, 6-2.
"He`s a great player, he`s been around for many years, he has great ground strokes and he`s a player who likes to play on clay," said Djokovic of his next foe.
"We played the final here in 2008 (which Djokovic won) and likes these courts and these conditions, it will definitely be a tough match."
The world number two has won all six tournaments he has entered this year, including the Australian Open.
He won in Belgrade two weeks ago and Madrid last week and proved he is not about to let up that hot streak with a ruthless display against an opponent ranked 141 in the world.
Kubot came through qualifying to reach this stage of the competition and the gulf in class between the pair was evident from the off.
Djokovic raced through the first set taking all three of his break-point opportunities, making half the number of errors and four times as many winners.
Serve and volley specialist Kubot seemed to gather his strength and put up much more of a fight in the second set, holding three times in a row from 0-3 down.
However, Djokovic sealed victory after just one hour and seven minutes on court after Kubot blazed a forehand into the tramlines on match point.