Nadal still looks the man to beat even if he is not the main event

Sweeting simply could not cope with the Majorcan's colossal power. In trying to fight fire with fire, he repeatedly hit the ball beyond the baseline

It's not often that Rafael Nadal arrives on Centre Court after the Lord Mayor's Show, but under the retractable roof at around 4.30pm yesterday there was a palpable sense that the previous match between Venus Williams and Kimiko Date-Krumm had been the day's big parade. Indeed, the first three games of Nadal's second-round match against the American Ryan Sweeting passed before anybody so much as took their seat in the Royal Box. Not even Bruce Forsyth, a rapt spectator during Venus's hard-fought win, was there to run an eye over Nadal's fancy footwork, which eventually helped the defending champion to register a 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 victory.

As if responding to this subdued mood, however, the top seed and world No 1 took a little time to find his line and length, as the England cricketers here on Tuesday might have put it. The characteristic frown looked just a little more deeply etched than usual, the ritual picking at his underpants just slightly more agitated. Occasionally, he asked the ball girls for four balls to select from before serving, rather than the usual three.

But even a faintly out-of-sorts Nadal is still a mighty proposition for the world's 69th best player, and Sweeting, already defeated twice by Nadal this year, simply could not cope with the Majorcan's colossal power. In trying to fight fire with fire, he repeatedly thumped the ball beyond the baseline. He's not the first, and won't be the last even at this tournament, to be lulled into a perfectly reasonable sense of insecurity against the man whose undefeated run on the All-England Club's lawns now extends to 16 matches. Admittedly injury kept him away in 2009, but it is nonetheless a hard and formidable fact that the last time Nadal walked off court a loser here was after the 2007 final against Roger Federer. This time, they are again seeded to meet in the final, and what a match that could be. Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic will have other ideas, but whatever transpires, it might even be enough to bury the memories of Williams v Date-Krumm.

As for the denizens of the Royal Box, perhaps remembering that there was a pretty decent player on court, and deciding that three scones were enough, they started trickling back in for the fourth game, led by none other than the Duchess of Cornwall. By the time Nadal wrapped up the first set, they were all back, including Brucie, who could have chosen several from his extensive collection of catchphrases, but "good game, good game" seemed the most appropriate as Nadal inexorably asserted his command, racing to a 4-0 second-set lead before Sweeting pegged him back.

The 23-year-old, who became a US citizen five years ago after relocating from the Bahamas, is no mug on a tennis court. He is a former US Open junior champion, won his first ATP tour event this year, and has recently broken into the top 100. He's a fighter, not unlike his compatriot Michael Russell, Nadal's victim in round one. In his own first-round match, against Pablo Andujar on Monday, Sweeting won a thunderous five-setter, the first time in his career he had won in five sets and his first victory at Wimbledon. There must have been times yesterday, however, when playing the world No 1 on Centre Court felt more like a punishment than a reward for those efforts. By the end of the second set Nadal had found whatever it was that had been lacking in the opening exchanges, and those whipcracking forehands were finding the corners like guided missiles.He was also serving beautifully, and winning 93 per cent of his first-serve points.

Undaunted, or rather not as daunted as he might have been, Sweeting won the first game of the third set with some missiles of his own. Moreover, after being broken by the Majorcan to go 1-2 down he had the audacity to break straight back. The Centre Court crowd, by now fully engaged, doubtless wondered what effect a service break would have on Nadal. Would it be like calling Kevin Kline's character "stupid" in A Fish Called Wanda, lifting him to new levels of ferocity? In fact, Sweeting managed to sustain the pressure, but after just over two hours Nadal ended the younger man's Grand Slam dreams for the second time this year, having also ejected him from the Australian Open. It was no way to thank him for a decent workout as he bids to win an 11th Grand Slam title by retaining a Wimbledon crown for the first time in his stellar career.

Standing in Nadal's way next is the big-serving man from Luxembourg, Gilles Muller, who went through after the Canadian Milos Raonic withdrew, injured, after just five games of the first set.

News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'