LONDON – Some days at the office are a little rough, even if you’re in the office Rafa Nadals case his workplace on Thursday was Wimbledon sunny but cool center court for the match against Ricardas Berankis.
The second seed duly won 6-4 6-4 4-6 6-3 to reach the third round, but his 307th win in a Grand Slam match, putting him one ahead of Martina Navratilova and fourth on the all-time list, will not linger long in his memory.
The inactive Nadal never looked in serious danger of having his calendar-year Slam bid dashed by the world number 106, but he knows he will have to play much better in the coming rounds to claim his third title since Wimbledon.
The stats rather told the story with Nadal making an unusually high number of unforced errors than winners, 39-35.
Lithuania’s Berankis hit the ball sharply and faced Nadal for long periods but gave away a poor first set when he picked the worst possible moment to surrender his serve with a flurry of bad errors when he was 5-4 down.
The Center Court crowd probably expected Nadal to shift through the gears then, but the usual buzz was missing from his groundstrokes and he had to recover a break of serve in the second set as he cruised to victory.
Berankis broke serve again early in the third set with a sweet backhand and had a double break point for a 4-1 lead. Nadal prevented that but couldn’t find the inspiration to recover the break on serve and was forced into some foreplay as an increasingly confident Berankis held his favorite serve at 5-4.
It was the second time in two matches that Nadal dropped the third set after winning the opening two, but he responded by winning 12 of the first 13 points in the fourth for a 3-0 lead, only to be stopped when a burst of cloud forced a delay as the roof was rolled across the court.
When play resumed nearly an hour later, 106th-ranked Berankis held serve three times and played a full part in some eye-catching exchanges on the baseline, but Nadal was a man in a hurry and wrapped up the match with his 13th ace.
The bottom half of the draw looks attractive for Nadal with so many top seeds already eliminated, but Italian 27th seed Lorenzo Sonego will provide a test of his form and fitness on Saturday.
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