Federer has twice finished runner-up at the Rome Masters
World number two Roger Federer put last year's Rome Masters defeat by Radek Stepanek behind him with a convincing win over the Czech in round three.
Federer eased to a 6-4 6-1 victory and a place in the last eight as he chases a first-ever Rome title.
Defending champion and third seed Novak Djokovic hammered 13th seed Tommy Robredo of Spain 6-1 6-1.
World number one Rafael Nadal thrashed Sweden's Robin Soderling 6-1 6-0 in Thursday's late match.
"I think the match was really tough, if not the result," said Nadal. "In the beginning I was winning 4-1 but at the same time I could have been losing 4-1.
"I think I played really well. It was one of my best matches on clay this year or maybe even in my career."
The Spaniard will play compatriot Fernando Verdasco
in the quarter-finals after the sixth seed beat Richard Gasquet 7-5 6-4.
lost to Stepanek at the quarter-final stage last year but was always in control this time.
"This year was very different. I could read his first serve," said the Swiss.
"I didn't have a problem to attack his serve, whereas last year I was just trying to get the ball into play and then obviously he was able to mix it up and make me doubt much more.
Gonzalez took his early frustration out on his racquet
"I had the control from the baseline. I'm really happy with the performance today. It's just important that I work hard and get back to my best. I know I'm very close to it."
Next up for Federer is German qualifier Mischa Zverev,
who shocked eighth seed Gilles Simon 6-4 6-1.
who needs to defend his title to prevent Andy Murray taking the number three ranking from him, had a surprisingly easy time against Robredo.
"It was quite strange because Tommy was making a lot of unforced errors, so he didn't put a lot of pressure on me," said the Serb.
He will next face fifth seed Juan Martin del Potro
of Argentina, who defeated Stanislas Wawrinka 6-2 6-7 (5-7) 6-3.
Fellow Argentine Juan Monaco,
conqueror of Andy Murray, beat Marin Cilic 6-4 6-4 to set up a clash with 12th seed Fernando Gonzalez
of Chile, who battled past Jurgen Melzer 3-6 6-3 7-5.
In a tight match a furious Gonzalez snapped his racquet in half early on when struggling to counter Melzer's attacking game.