Rafael Nadal found his form at the French Open on his 27th birthday to brush aside Kei Nishikori and reach the quarter-finals in Paris.
The seven-time champion has famously only once lost once at Roland Garros, to Robin Soderling in 2009, but he looked unusually vulnerable in his first three rounds.
Daniel Brands and Martin Klizan both won the first set against Nadal while, although he played better against Fabio Fognini on Saturday, he was still well below his best and fortunate to win in straight sets.
The Spaniard often gets better as the rounds go on but rarely does he struggle on clay as much as he did in the first week.
It was a surprise because he has enjoyed his best start to a season despite coming back from seven months on the sidelines with knee problems, winning six tournaments and reaching the final in his other two.
Nadal certainly looked more like his old self in a 6-4 6-1 6-3 victory over 13th seed Nishikori, striking his forehand with a lot more ferocity and moving better around the court.
The first set was relatively even, but Nadal took his chance in the fifth game while Nishikori was not able to take his.
After the Japanese player held at the start of the second set, Nadal won seven straight games, and a single break in the fourth game of the third set was enough for the third seed to come through in two hours and two minutes.
After the match, Nadal was presented with a huge layered cake decorated with tennis rackets and balls on the court as he celebrated his birthday at Roland Garros for the eighth time.Reuse content