Kei Nishikori was rusty in his season-opening match against Jared Donaldson.
Still, Nishikori found enough to hold off the American qualifier 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 on Wednesday and reach the Brisbane International quarterfinals.
Eighth-seeded David Ferrer didn't make it that far, saving four match points on serve late in the third set before losing to Australian wild-card entry Jordan Thompson 4-6, 7-5, 7-5.
Thompson, who won only three of his 13 matches in 2016, is already 2-0 this week and reached his first ATP Tour-level quarterfinal match. Next up is Nishikori.
The third-seeded Nishikori, a three-time semifinalist in Brisbane, had a first-round bye and started the second round by racing to a 4-0 lead. But Donaldson responded and won the next six games to take the opening set in less than an hour.
After jumping to a 3-0 lead in the second, Nishikori dropped another service game but this time used his experience in pressure situations to calmly regain control.
"I had a great start, and then I had one bad game after 4-0," Nishikori said. "I think it's a matter of my concentration ... a mental thing. After that he started playing much better ... and his forehand was on fire.
"It was really close. He had many chance to win a set and win the match, so, I mean, finally, in the last set I started playing like first couple of games and started dominating."
Sixth-seeded Lucas Pouille was trailing Kyle Edmund 6-3, 3-1 when he retired from their second-round match. Pouille had earlier had treatment for blisters on his feet after winning the first game of the second set.
A day after becoming the first player born in the 2000s to win a main draw match at an elite WTA event, Destanee Aiava lost to two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-4, 6-3 in the women's second round.
"It's pretty scary (but) I learned a lot out of that match," said the 16-year-old Aiava, adding that she had gained "confidence, maybe, in my game and myself, knowing that I do belong here."
Aiava will return to her hometown Melbourne, where she will play an exhibition tournament next week to continue preparations for her first Grand Slam event. She has a wild-card entry for the Australian Open, where she is set to be the first player born this millennium to play a Grand Slam main draw match.
Kuznetsova will play French Open champion and fourth-seeded Garbine Muguruza in the quarterfinals.
Second-seeded Dominika Cibulkova rallied from a set and a break down to beat Zhang Shuai 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 in her first competitive match since beating No. 1 Angelique Kerber to clinch the season-ending WTA Finals title. No. 8-seeded Roberta Vinci beat Misaki Doi 6-4, 6-2 in another second-round match.