By Julien Pretot
Nadal's shock fourth round defeat at last year's French Open was long forgotten as the claycourt master, four-times a winner at Roland Garros, powered past his fellow Spaniard 6-4 6-2.
Ferrero, who had won 17 of his 18 matches on the slow surface this season, tried to attack Nadal's backhand. Nadal in turn reacted by stifling Ferrero.
"This result against probably one of the tougher opponents right now on clay is a very good one," said Nadal.
"And I served much better today. My serve was much better than the rest of the three days. That's very important, too."
Ferrero said: "I think on clay, he is at the same high level. Of course, he has some bad matches on clay.
"But still he puts a thousand balls in court and it's difficult to get a winner. So his bad days are good."
Nadal's match had to be halted midway through the first set after gusting winds and rain caused havoc on court.
The world number three wiped off dust in his eyes in the third game while VIPs on the terrace had the sunshades pulled back into place after sudden gusts of winds sent white napkins flying.
But Ferrero refused to get distracted by the airborne debris and grabbed a 3-2 lead in the tense encounter when the players were ordered back into the locker room.
While some fans took cover from the elements by draping Spanish flags around their shoulders, Nadal wore a grumpy look as he trudged out of center court for around 30 minutes.
On resumption, Nadal stepped up a gear to break for 5-4 with a stunning forehand, following up on serve to clinch the opening set with a service winner.
The former world number one kept up pressure, breaking in the first game of the second set as Ferrero gradually ran out of steam -- and hope.
A crosscourt forehand winner gave Nadal another break for 4-1, which delighted his father Sebastian who kept a close eye on the match from under his panama hat.
Ferrero found unlikely angles to save a couple match points but bowed to the inevitable on the third, returning a serve into the net.
Nadal took some time to deal with all autograph requests from young fans, high-fiving them with a broad smile on his face as the left the court.
In the later game, Nalbandian, who showed glimpses of his claycourt abilities in the previous round, conceded the first 11 points of the match as Djokovic raced to a 3-0 lead.
The ex-Australian Open champion had too much confidence and although Nalbandian threatened a comeback in the second set, Djokovic ended the contest with an exquisite drop shot.
"This is one of the best matches I've played in 2010, definitely," Djokovic told reporters.
"Now I have high expectations on this surface (clay). It's a great start. I can't ask for more."
Next in line for Djokovic is Fernando Verdasco, who threw away a 5-1 lead and three match points in the second set against fellow Spaniard Albert Montanes before getting his act together to prevail 6-3 6-7 6-0.
(Editing by Dave Thompson; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)