LONDON: Rafa Nadal kept up his bid for a third Wimbledon and French Open double, putting on an ominous show to beat Karen Khachanov 6-1, 6-4, 7-6(3) on Friday on Centre Court and reach the last 16.
The Spanish fourth seed scorched his way through the first set, threatening to sizzle the parched Centre Court grass with the pace of some of his shots, and while the Russian 30th seed regrouped in sets two and three, the damage had been done.
A rejuvenated Nadal, 31, won this year’s French Open, his 10th title there, without dropping a set and has kept up the pace at Wimbledon as he aims to covert that red-hot clay form to the grass to claim his first grasscourt slam title since 2010.
Khachanov came close to pushing him into a fourth set, reaching set point in the 12th game of the third set, but Nadal was too strong and accurate at the net and from the baseline.
FEDERER ON SONG
Late on Thursday, Roger Federer beat 79th-ranked Serb Dusan Lajovic 7-6(0) 6-3 6-2. His record-extending 86th win at the All England Club put him closer to becoming the first man to claim eight Wimbledon singles titles, having first lifted the trophy in 2003, but it was far from a routine day at the office for the 35-year-old.
“I was feeling nerves for some reason. Not sure why,” said Federer, who will face German serve-and-volleyer Mischa Zverev in round three.
“It was definitely more acute than I normally feel it. It was just like all of a sudden I was walking up to the locker room after my warm-up and I was feeling excited and nervous.
“Then when I walked to the court it was still ongoing and after the warm-up it was still there. And down 1-0, 0-40, it was still there, and it was still there at 6-6 in the first set.
“Just took a while to shake it off.”
Spain’s ‘Mr Consistent’ Roberto Bautista Agut reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the seventh time in his last nine attempts with a shock victory over Japanese ninth seed Kei Nishikori on Friday.
The 29-year-old proved too solid for a listless Nishikori, winning 6-4 7-6(3) 3-6 6-3 on Court Three. “I could not get into my rhythm,” Nishikori told a large gathering of Japanese reporters.
“It was really hard for me to be aggressive today. In the third set I began to move him around a bit but it didn’t last long enough unfortunately. I totally lost my rhythm out there.”
New mother Victoria Azarenka reached the last 16 of Wimbledon on Friday with a nerve-jangling 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 win over home favourite Heather Watson.
Azarenka, the former world number one, who is returning to tennis after the birth of her son in December, was stung into action after Watson had ridden a patriotic wave to the first set.
Despite throwing in three double-faults to Watson’s one, she broke twice to win the second and set up a decider.
Watson kicked off the third set serving, and pushed her nose in front. The Briton was finding it tough to hold, though, while Azarenka breezed through her service games.
The Belarussian clinched a break in a 10-minute seventh game, but Watson hit straight back to level it 4-4 and set off a roar within the arena. But it was only a temporary reprieve, as Azarenka punched straight back before serving out. “I really stepped up in the key moments,” she said.
Azarenka will next play second-seeded Romanian Simona Halep who won 6-4 7-6(7) against China’s Peng Shuai.