Rafael Nadal overcomes errors and Ricardas Berankis to reach Wimbledon third round

Nadal emerged from a 50-minute rain delay in the fourth set to wrap up a 6-4 6-4 4-6 6-3 win

Jamie Braidwood
Thursday 30 June 2022 20:03 BST
Rafael Nadal recorded his 16th straight win at a grand slam
Rafael Nadal recorded his 16th straight win at a grand slam (Getty Images)
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In the end both results counted the same, but while Novak Djokovic produced a near faultless display to advance on Wednesday, Rafael Nadal was more selective when finding his top form to defeat Ricardas Berankis on Centre Court and advance to the third round of Wimbledon.

As the contenders from Nadal’s half of the draw fall, the comparison to Djokovic and the level that will almost certainly be required to capture the third leg of the calendar grand slam has been made clear. But, for a player whose year has been defined by rediscovering the peak of his powers, this was a far from vintage performance from the two-time Wimbledon champion.

A 6-4 6-4 4-6 6-3 slog against the world No 109 Berankis was for the most part defined by erratic hitting and unforced errors from the Spaniard. A two-set lead was established despite Nadal being far from his best, with the 36-year-old preventing what could have developed into an awkward evening by waking up for the big moments and the saving grace of Berankis initially struggling with the occasion.

The Lithuanian, who has now failed to go further than the second round at Wimbledon in nine attempts, settled with a well-deserved third set, but his insurgence on Centre Court did not last long. Nadal broke Berankis in the opening game of the fourth and, although the inevitable was delayed by what turned out to be a lengthy 50-minute rain delay while the roof closed, it was quickly wrapped up in just over three hours.

A place in the third round and a match against Lorenzo Sonego is safe refuge after the hesitancy of the opening exchanges. By early in the second set, Nadal’s unforced errors were outnumbering his winners by 21 to seven. The top-spin forehand was struggling to find its arc and there were a few murmurs around Centre Court as groundstrokes were shanked wildly out of play.

Berankis had opportunities but he wilted on the big points. When the 32-year-old came out to serve at 4-5 there was a sense of inevitability about Nadal breaking for the opening set after Berankis threw a costly double fault into the mix at 15-30. It was a set that Nadal was a little fortunate to win and Berankis had more chances in the second as he took the early break. The door was opened for Berankis as the errors from Nadal mounted, but he was unable to step through.

Nadal overcame a sloppy start on Centre Court (Getty Images)

Eventually, Nadal stemmed the dripping of errors and he discovered the angled winners to break again in the 12th game. The grunts from Nadal told you that he was beginning to hit cleaner balls on the backhand side and it provoked an improvement from Berankis, as is often the case when an unheralded player adjusts to the stage and realises they have nothing to lose.

Berankis, beginning to take on Nadal shot for shot, broke in the opening game of the third and a miracle volley at the net, followed by two winners, secured an important hold at 5-3. He served it out impressively to deny the Spaniard, as Nadal lurked and clawed at the door.

For a moment, despite Nadal having already addressed the balance between winners and errors, it looked as if he had arrived at the challenge that had been threatened since his sloppy start to the match. But with two winners cracked on either side from Nadal,  the task became a lot more straightforward. A surging, newly cool Berankis became tight and weary, and he responded with a backhand shovelled long of the baseline for the break of serve.

A match that began in the warm early evening sun finished under the roof, a process that was inexplicably drawn out. Berankis continued to pose a late threat, summoning a final exertion from Nadal to match his newfound aggressive hitting from the baseline. Under the roof the ball was whacked with greater purpose by both. Berankis flashed a warning with a clean winner, but Nadal closed it out with three aces.

It was met with relief and a thankful wave to the crowd. Overall, the level will need to be higher than this. Nadal will know that, but he will continue to choose the moments to do so, too.

Broady battles on but Draper edged in late-night thriller

Earlier, Britain’s  Liam Broady staged a brilliant comeback to defeat 12th seed Diego Schwartzman in an epic five-set win and join Cameron Norrie in the third round. Broady, who was beaten by  Schwartzman in the first round last year, showed grit after losing the third set without taking a game on his way to a dramatic 6-2 4-6 0-6 7-6 6-1 victory on Court No 3.

Jack Draper was unable to match him later in the evening, despite a valiant effort against Alex De Minaur in an absorbing contest under the lights on Court No 1. Draper took the opening set and was a break up in the second but lost momentum after the 19th seed De Minaur ran away with the resulting tiebreak. The experience will be valuable for the 20-year-old Draper, while the impressive De Minaur will face Broady next and could be a dark horse in an open section of the draw.

Jack Draper has vowed to return a ‘different player’ next year (Getty Images)

Meanwhile, Nick Kyrgios produced a faultless three sets of tennis to destroy Filip Krajinovic 6-2 6-3 6-1. Kyrgios hit 50 winners across the match and did not lose a point on his serve until the second set as he raced to a sensational victory in just 85 minutes. Furthermore, there was no repeat of the antics from Kyrgios that marred his eventful five-set epic against Britain’s Paul Jubb in the opening round.

“I was in the zone today,” Krygios said. “It’s good to remind everyone that I’m pretty good.” He will face Stefanos Tsitsipas next in a blockbuster third-round clash, after the No 4 seed defeated Jordan Thompson 6-2 6-3 7-5.

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