World No. 1 Rafael Nadal made it to the fourth round of Wimbledon with a four-set victory over Mikhail Kukushkin under a closed roof on Centre Court. Maria Sharapova also won as play resumed after a rain delay.
Playing in the third round for the first time since 2011, Spain’s Nadal lost the opening set for a third match in succession, before easing to a 6-7 (4-7), 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 win against the No. 63 from Kazakhstan in two hours, 33 minutes.
“At the beginning he was playing very long, making no mistakes, very aggressive,” French Open champion Nadal, 28, said in a televised post-match interview. “I made a few unforced errors. In the tiebreak I didn’t serve my best.”
Play resumed on outside courts just before 6 p.m. local time after more than six hours of play was lost because of rain.
Seven-time winner Roger Federer is playing Colombian Santiago Giraldo on Centre Court, which has been covered by a retractable roof since 2009.
Nadal, whose career has been interrupted by injuries, said he’s in good physical condition even though he slipped on the first point of the match.
“In the first week the court’s a little bit more slippery than in the second week,” he said. “The important thing is that I finished all the matches better than I started.”
Kukushkin hit 17 winners to Nadal’s 11 in a 55-minute first set which he took on a tiebreak. From that moment he was unable to cope with the two-time champion’s power and accuracy. Nadal ended up hitting 41 winners to his opponent’s 32.
Bidding for a 15th Grand Slam, Nadal is on course for a possible final against world No. 2 Novak Djokovic. It would be his fourth straight appearance in a tennis Grand Slam final.
Djokovic of Serbia won his third-round match yesterday, overcoming a painful fall on his left shoulder. An ultrasound showed no significant damage, Djokovic later told reporters.
Fifth-seed Sharapova, who won Wimbledon a decade ago as a 17-year-old, beat American Alison Riske 6-3, 6-0 to book her spot in the last 16. Riske, ranked No. 44, won the first two games before being out-grunted and out-hit by the six-foot, two-inch (1.88 meters) Russian.
Sharapova is in good form after winning the French Open this month, her fifth Grand Slam singles title. In her three matches at this year’s Wimbledon she’s only conceded seven games.
“I had a little bit of a slow start, but otherwise I’m happy,” Sharapova told the British Broadcasting Corp. after her win.
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