Nadal survives unexpected battle to reach fourth round

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Nadal survives unexpected battle to reach fourth round

LONDON - Rafael Nadal survived a scare to book his place in the fourth round at Wimbledon with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2, 6-3 win against Germany’s Philipp Petzschner on Saturday.

Nadal had been pushed to five sets by unheralded Dutchman Robin Haase in the previous round, and once again he struggled to stay on top of an opponent he was expected to dismiss with ease.

The French Open champion had to come from two sets to one down to beat Haase, and he was pushed into the same position again before finally securing a clash with France’s Paul-Henri Mathieu in the next round.

After an early exit from Queen’s and a pair of unconvincing displays here, Nadal needs to step up a gear in the second week to get back to the level required to beat the likes of Roger Federer at the business end of the tournament.

Nadal had declined an invitation to meet Queen Elizabeth II when she visited the All England Club on Thursday because he was determined not to change his usual pre-match routine. That surprising snub to the monarch served to underline Nadal’s ferocious desire to regain the Wimbledon title he was forced to surrender last year when knee tendinitis stopped him competing here.

Nadal was quick to take control of the first set as he broke Petzschner in the opening game after converting his fourth break point. With Petzschner never threatening to break Nadal’s serve, the Spaniard easily closed out the set, yet there was still something missing from the second seed’s game. Petzschner has never reached the fourth round of a Grand Slam and he fought back gamely in the second set.

After Nadal missed two chances to break, the match took a surprising turn in the 10th game when he put a smash into the net to give a first break point to Petzschner, who converted the opportunity with a fine volley before serving out the set. Nadal’s forehand went completely to pieces for a while in third set and he called for the trainer to examine a problem with his left arm before deciding to delay treatment.

A tie-break was needed to decide the set and it was Petzschner who was the more aggressive force. The German nailed two superb winners to earn set points that Nadal saved before Petzschner delivered another big serve to take a stunning two sets to one lead.

But Nadal has always relished the gruelling combat of a five-set match more than most, and he ignored any tiredness and redoubled his efforts to subdue Petzschner. A break early in the fourth set gave Nadal a much-needed foothold in the match and, after another visit from the trainer to look at his right leg, he broke again to take the set. Despite his ailments, Nadal was the dominant force now and Petzschner, who also called for treatment on his legs, had no answer to the irrepressible Spaniard.

Petzschner’s last chance came when he failed to take a break point at the start of the final set. He could only keep Nadal at bay until the eighth game when a pair of fierce forehands from the Spaniard clinched the decisive break.

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