Following a difficult but successful opening two rounds at The Championships, world No. 1 Rafael Nadal is successfully into the third round at SW19 for the first time in three years. For the Spaniard, the obstacles will only continue to pile on as his next opponent is Mikhail Kukushkin, with the Nadal vs Kukushkin head-to-head record standing at 2-0.
The second seed was potentially just a set point away from another sudden exit at Wimbledon. He arrived on court opposite Lukas Rosol, the man who unceremoniously dispatched him two years ago at the very same stage of the event, and it looked like history was inevitably doomed to repeat itself. The two-time champion quickly found himself down a set and a break to Rosol and even the crowd on Centre Court knew the end was quite possibly very near.
True as that appeared, Nadal made the necessary adjustments to his game and pounced on his opponent to recover the break and force and eventual tiebreak. Nadal would find himself down set point against Rosol a few minutes later but once again buckled down and recovered to hit a beautiful forehand down the line to erupt the crowd.
“Maybe if I lost that set point in the second set, if that forehand down the line went out, maybe I would be [sitting] here with a loss,” said Nadal. But that’s the sport. That forehand was a perfect forehand for that moment. Even if I was losing, I was fighting for every ball. I was fighting mentally, physically.
Nadal would eventually secure the 4-6,7-6,6-4,6-4 victory to the delight of the crowd.
“Every match is so difficult here. Especially when you play against players that really decide to play every shot [at] full power. I played a bad game in the 4-4 and I lost the first set. I think until that moment I was playing better than him, but didn’t have my chances on the return because he was serving well. [I am] very happy. It is a very important victory for me… I finished the match playing at a very high level.”
Next for the former champion is another underrated challenger in Mikhail Kukushkin, who won his second straight sets match at the Championships, this time against Frank Dancevic to secure his spot in the third round of the tournament. This is the first time he will contest a match against Rafa on grass, but he has lost handily to him at the Monte Carlo Masters (clay) and Bangkok (hard).
Prediction: Rafael Nadal in Straight Sets