Saturday, June 28, 2008
Nadal, Murray advance to round of 16 at Wimbledon
ESPN.com news services
WIMBLEDON, England -- With the sun setting behind Centre Court, Rafael Nadal was racing to get done so he could concentrate on another important match.
Rafael Nadal is on track to be the first man since Bjorn Borg to win the French Open and Wimbledon back-to-back.
The four-time French Open champion chalked one up for Spain over Germany at 9:12 p.m. Saturday with his 7-6 (3), 6-2, 6-3 victory over Nicolas Kiefer in the third round at Wimbledon.
But that wasn't the Spain vs. Germany victory that was foremost in his mind immediately after the match -- he wanted that to come Sunday when the Spanish soccer team took on the Germans in the European championship final.
The middle Sunday is set aside for rest and recuperation at Wimbledon, and Nadal didn't want to worry about his third-round contest with Kiefer being carried over until Monday if it became too dark to keep playing.
"I was a little bit nervous, because for me it was important to finish the match," said Nadal, stifling a yawn.
It was at the same point last year when his third-round match with Robin Soderling spanned four days because of rain.
Nadal went on to lose the final to Roger Federer for the second straight year.
So after a first set that lasted 67 minutes and went to a tiebreaker on Saturday, it was getting close to 8 p.m. and he instinctively shifted a gear.
He raced through the second set in 33 minutes, hitting winners off both wings, and was serving for the match at 5-1 at 9:03 p.m. in the third set.
Then he lost his focus for a bit. Kiefer broke him for the first time in the match, then held serve for 5-3.
With the stairwell lights in the Royal Box, the occasional camera flash and the scoreboard glow the only artificial lights adding illumination in the shadowy court, Nadal made no mistake next time.
He held at love to finish in 2 hours, 22 minutes, then he punched the air, took off both wrist bands and threw them into the crowd.
"I had an unbelievable mistake with the volley, the forehand volley at 5-1, and later he has a very good serve," he said. "Lucky for me, later I played a good game."
Rafa loves his soccer and has a bit of pedigree.
His uncle, Miguel Angel Nadal, "The Beast of Barcelona," played for Spain in three World Cups, in 1994, '98 and 2002.
So on Sunday evening, he planned to be kicking back with some of the other Spanish tennis players at his place in the Village watching the coverage from Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna, Austria, rooting for Spain to win its first piece of major soccer silverware since its 2-1 win over the Soviet Union in the 1964 European championship final.
Asked if his win was the first of two for the weekend for Spain, Nadal was confident.
"Tomorrow is another history, no? Happy for my win, but tomorrow is very important," he said. "If we are not confident right now with this team, we're never going to be confident, no?"
Not that he thought the Spanish soccer players would be using his win over Kiefer as motivation.
"I don't think I'm going to help nothing, but for sure tomorrow I'm going to be supporting the Spanish team 100 percent."
After that, the 22-year-old Nadal can return his focus to becoming the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1980 to win French Open and Wimbledon titles in the same year. The likely roadblock is Federer, who has won the last five Wimbledon titles and is on a 61-match steak.
Earlier Saturday, Andy Murray of Scotland also reached the round of 16 after
surviving his toughest test yet against German Tommy Haas.
Murray, the No. 12 seed, won 6-4, 6-7, 6-3,
6-2, to move into Wimbledon's second week. He will next face
Richard Gasquet of France for a place in his first Grand Slam
Serbia's Janko Tipsarevic
followed his suprise second round victory over sixth seed Andy Roddick with a 7-6, 7-6, 6-3 win over No. 25 seed Dmitry Tursunov of Russia.
The first two sets went to tiebreaks and it was Tipsarevic, who reached the round of 16
last year, who capitalized on Tursunov's poor tiebreak
serves, including a double-fault to seal the first set.
Tipsarevic produced another ace to take a 2-0 lead and the
24-year-old, ranked No. 40 in the world, saw off a late Tursunov
comeback to seal the third with his 13th ace of the match.
Tipsarevic, who took Federer to five
sets before losing in this year's Australian Open, will face Rainer Schuettler of Germany in the fourth
round on Monday.
In a five-set marathon that ended in near darkness at 9:30 p.m., Mikhail Youzhny outlasted Radek Stepanek 7-5, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-3. In the final game, Stepanek tumbled on the slick surface and injured his right wrist. After medical treatment, he resumed playing and Youzhny ended the match quickly.
Other men's winners on Saturday included Janko Tipsarevic, Arnaud Clement, Marin Cilic and Schuettler, the oldest player left in the draw at 32.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.