LONDON: The scoreboard said 6-4 6-3 6-4 to Rafael Nadal but it was an uneasy two-and-a-half hours for the Spanish world number one as he labored past Kazakhstan’s Mikhail Kukushkin into the Wimbledon third round yesterday. Two-time champion Nadal, 32, never quite got to grips with the unorthodox Kazakh’s low, skidding shots and faced 13 break points in an entertaining Centre Court contest.
Had Kukushkin converted a few more of them it could have got really complicated for Nadal, who is still finding his grasscourt game after claiming an 11th French Open title. Nadal took 10 minutes to hold his opening service game and was still being asked questions by the world number 77 in the third when he slipped 3-1 behind in the face of some inspired shot-making by his opponent. The 17-times Grand Slam champion dug in though and managed to avoid being dragged further into the afternoon, claiming victory when Kukushkin’s forehand smacked into the net tape. Nadal will face Australian teenager Alex De Minaur next.
Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic made it through to the third round at Wimbledon with a straight sets win over Horacio Zeballos of Argentina. The former world number one, seeded 12th at the All England Club as he makes his way back from an elbow injury, won 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 for his 60th win at the tournament. The three-time Wimbledon champion, more used to playing on the main Centre Court or Court One arenas, was in the strange position of playing on the 4,000-seater Court Two. Djokovic had treatment on his left thigh in the third set but overcame the problem to see out the set. He faces either British 21st seed Kyle Edmund or US qualifier Bradley Klahn in Saturday’s third round. – Agencies