London skies glower on all except Rafael Nadal

Rain cancels play on all uncovered courts, but Spaniard blitzes through Centre Court meeting with Mikhail Kukushkin after loss of first set

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 June, 2014, 1:48am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 June, 2014, 1:48am

Rafael Nadal overcame an early blip to defeat Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin and reach the Wimbledon last 16, shining beneath the Centre Court roof yesterday as heavy rain swept away the action outside.

The 2008 and 2010 champion dropped the opening set for the third time in three matches before turning things around in a 6-7 (4-7), 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 victory.

And Maria Sharapova remains on course for a rare French Open and Wimbledon double after moving into the fourth round with a 6-3, 6-0 victory over American Alison Riske.

I had a little bit of a slow start but otherwise I'm thankful to get through
Maria Sharapova

Sharapova is bidding to become the first woman since Serena Williams in 2002 to follow victory at Roland Garros with Wimbledon glory just weeks later.

The 27-year-old was pushed harder than the scoreline suggested, but the 2004 Wimbledon winner eventually overpowered world No 44 Riske in 69 minutes under the roof on Centre Court.

The world No five, has yet to drop a set in this year's event.

"I had a little bit of a slow start but otherwise I'm thankful to get through," Sharapova said.

"Alison is a great grass court player and had some of her best results on the surface, but I felt better as the match went on."

The Russian admitted she was relieved to finish her match, while her rivals could be made to play a hectic schdeule next week.

The Spanish second seed blitzed world No 63 Kukushkin, who had never won a match at Wimbledon before this year and had only beaten one top 10 player.

Nadal, the 28-year-old winner of 14 grand slam titles, won 17 of the last 19 games and will face either Australia's rising star Nick Kyrgios or Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic for a quarter-finals berth.

They had played just 15 minutes of their third-round match out on Court 17 before rain halted all action on the uncovered courts and forced organisers to cancel 24 doubles and junior matches by mid-afternoon.

Nadal dropped the first set to Martin Klizan and Lukas Rosol in his first two rounds. Kukushkin, playing in his 21st tournament of the year, employed the same free-swinging tactics to bludgeon his way through the opener.

But in front of a royal box containing such glitterati as retired Indian cricket master Sachin Tendulkar, ex-England football captain David Beckham and former Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, Nadal regained his composure.

From 1-1 in the second set to 3-0 in the fourth, he won 14 of 15 games and did not face any break points until 2-0 in the fourth.

Kukushkin, a rare example of a player coached by his own wife, stopped the rot by getting on the board at 1-3. But it was a brief respite as Nadal stormed to victory with 41 winners and 12 unforced errors.

"At the beginning, he was playing pretty long, no mistakes, very aggressive and I made few unforced errors with that second serve," said Nadal who has reached the second week for the first time since 2011. "In the tie-break, I didn't serve my best and that was the real thing - without serving your best in a tie-break against a player who is playing well, it is impossible."

Nadal said he was looking forward to the second week after a first round loss in 2013 and second round exit 12 months earlier.

"I'm very happy to be in the second week again after two years losing in the first and second round. I'm playing well, good spirit, good tactics on court, fighting for every ball."

Agence France-Presse, Reuters