A day after celebrating his 36th birthday, Federer played the aggressive game that has propelled him to five titles, including two grand slams, this year, attacking the net and rocketing second serves.
Ferrer's timing from the back of the court was like clockwork in the opening set, as he stepped up onto the baseline and took the match to Federer. "So take it how it is and hope that this match gives me some better rhythm and confidence against Bautista Agut, who plays actually very similar to David".
Federer improved his head-to-head record against Ferrer to 17-0, but Ferrer took a set from Federer for the sixth time since they met for the first time in 2003.
The set went with serve as Federer levelled.
Next up for Federer is a quarter-final against 12th-seeded Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut, who defeated Frenchman Gael Monfils in a marathon match 4-6 7-6 (7-5) 7-6 (7-2) on Thursday. He let a set point slip away with Ferrer serving at 3-5, but Federer served out the second set in the 10th game. "I'm going to try and recover and enjoy the win today before preparing for tomorrow's match".
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Nadal, a three-time Rogers Cup victor who is back in the hunt for the No.1 ranking after winning his 10th French Open title this year, will play Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov, who downed 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin De Potro 6-3 7-6 (7-4) in a second-round match on a gusty Wednesday afternoon.
"I'm happy, as I knew I would have to play a lot of rallies", said Bautista Agut. He saved the first with an ace but Ferrer made no mistake with his second set point, converting to take the opener 6-4.
The 18-year-old Shapovalov became the youngest player to reach the round of 16 of a Masters Series tournament since Nadal in 2004 at Miami.
Unseeded Argentine Diego Schwartzman posted a unusual win over American Jared Donaldson 0-6, 7-5, 7-5 to advance to a quarterfinal meeting with Robin Haase, the 52nd-ranked Dutchman who upset seventh-seeded Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-1.
Haase fired 13 aces and won 77 percent of his first-serve points to stay in control.