ROME -- Two-time reigning champion Rafael Nadal, high-flying Serb Novak Djokovic and former world No. 1 star Roger Federer posted second-round victories Wednesday at the $3.285 million Italian Masters tennis event.
The world No. 1 Nadal has now won 38 of his last 39 matches on red clay after coming from behind to top 148th-ranked Italian qualifier Paolo Lorenzi 6-7 (5-7), 6-4, 6-0 on a hot day at Foro Italico.
Nadal couldn't remember the last time he played so poorly on his beloved clay.
"But it's impossible to play worse, so that's one good thing," he said.
Nadal had won 37 straight on clay before losing to Djokovic in last week's Madrid Masters finale. Nadal has lost to Djokovic in three Masters finals already this year, but is still the all-time leader with 18 Masters championships.
The 24-year-old Nadal is looking to win the Italian Masters title for a sixth time, having also triumphed here from 2005-2007 in addition to his 2009 and 2010 wins. The Spanish strongman owns a brilliant 28-1 lifetime record at Foro Italico, including a victory over David Ferrer in last year's all-Spanish finale.
The reigning U.S. Open, Wimbledon and French Open champion Nadal will face fellow Spaniard Feliciano Lopez here on Thursday.
A second-seeded Djokovic, meanwhile, improved to a remarkable 33-0 this year with a 6-0, 6-3 pasting of Polish qualifier Lukasz Kubot in 67 minutes.
"It is a great way to start," Djokovic said. "It is always great to have a straight-set win and spend less time on the courts and save some energy for coming rounds."
The last time someone on the ATP started a year at 33-0 was the great Bjorn Borg back in 1980. The ATP record for the best start to a year was John McEnroe, who went 42-0 before finally losing in 1984.
The 2008 Rome titlist Djokovic already own six titles this year, including the one in Madrid last week. The Australian Open champ will face Swiss slugger Stanislas Wawrinka in the round of 16.
A third-seeded Federer, a two-time Rome runner-up, cruised past Frenchman Jo- Wilfried Tsonga 6-4, 6-2. The 16-time major champion will meet 16th-seeded Frenchman Richard Gasquet on Thursday.
A sixth-seeded Ferrer will not make a return trip to the final here, as he pulled out of the draw because of a fever on Wednesday and was replaced by Argentine Carlos Berlocq. Ferrer was a recent runner-up to his fellow Spanish star Nadal in Monte Carlo and Barcelona.
A Day-4 upset in Rome came when rising German Florian Mayer upended eighth- seeded Jurgen Melzer 6-4, as the Austrian lefthander retired after the opening set.
Meanwhile, ninth-seeded Spaniard Nicolas Almagro handled American Sam Querrey 6-3, 7-6 (7-4), 11th-seeded American Mardy Fish outlasted former top-five Croat Ivan Ljubicic 7-6 (7-2), 5-7, 6-2, and a 14th-seeded Wawrinka topped Italian favorite Filippo Volandri 6-1, 3-6, 6-2. Almagro will be opposed by fifth-seeded two-time French Open runner-up Robin Soderling on Thursday.
Another upset came when Italian Potito Starace knocked out 15th-seeded Serb Viktor Troicki 6-4, 6-4. Starace should have his hands full with fourth-seeded Aussie Open runner-up Andy Murray on Day 5.
Argentine Juan Ignacio Chela charged past Frenchman Gilles Simon 6-4, 6-2, while the aforementioned Lopez got past German Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, and Croat Marin Cilic disposed of the lucky-loser Berlocq 6-4, 6-3.
This week's champion will claim $645,000.