Two years after being knocked out in the second round of Wimbledon by Lukas Rosol, Rafael Nadal found himself one point away from falling behind two sets to love to the same player on the same Centre Court in the same round Thursday.
It looked like another huge upset was in the making.
But the Spaniard ripped a forehand winner to erase the set point and Rosol double-faulted two points later to give Nadal the set. With that sudden shift in momentum, Nadal rallied for a 4-6, 7-6 (6), 6-4, 6-4 victory that sent him into the third round at the All England Club.
“The difference maybe is one point,” the two-time champion said. “Maybe if I lose that set point in the second set, if that forehand down the line went out, maybe (I) will be here with a loss.
“But that’s the sport. That forehand was a perfect forehand for that moment.”
Rosol stunned Nadal in five sets in the second round in 2012, a match that finished under the closed Centre Court roof. While Nadal insisted he was not out for revenge, the way he dug himself out of trouble and celebrated with fist pumps and shouts of “Vamos!” showed how much winning this match meant to him.
“Today (Thursday) is another history, another story,” he said. “I needed to find the solution. Finally I did. That’s the most important thing.”
Things were much easier for seven-time champion Roger Federer, who served 25 aces – including three in a row in the final game – to cruise past left-handed qualifier Gilles Muller of Luxembourg 6-3, 7-5, 6-3.
With his parents watching from the Royal Box, Federer – who lost in the second round last year to Sergiy Stakhovsky – never faced a break point. The roof was closed over Centre Court for the first time this week at 4-3 in the second set because of rain. Four singles were suspended for the day, and another never got underway.
“It was really a serving contest out there,” Federer said. “I’m happy I made it because in the second set it was tough with the rain delay, and I was not having many looks on his serve.”
Nadal came into Wimbledon after winning his ninth French Open title but his form on grass was in question. In addition to that loss to Rosol two years ago, he was upset in the first round last year by Steve Darcis and lost to Dustin Brown in a grass-court warm-up two weeks ago in Halle, Germany.
“This is a very important victory for me,” Nadal said. “To be in the third round here again after two, three years is very positive news, and I finished the match playing at a very high level.”
Nadal looked in danger again Thursday as the big-hitting, 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) Czech kept going for big serves and forehands that kept the Spaniard at bay.
After taking the first set, Rosol went up a break in the second before Nadal broke back to make it 4-4. Then came the tiebreaker that changed the course of the match.
Rosol went up 5-4, with a chance to serve out the tiebreaker in the next two points. Nadal won the next point, forcing Rosol to miss a low half volley. Rosol served an ace to give him a set point at 6-5. Nadal then came up with the forehand winner to make it 6-6, Rosol missed a return on the next point, and then double-faulted into the net.
While Nadal celebrated, his coach and uncle, Toni, leapt out of his seat in the guest box, shouted “Vamos!” and pumped his fist three times.
From then on, Nadal was in charge. He ran off 14 points in a row from the end of the third set to early in the fourth.
While Nadal was made to work, five-time women’s champion Serena Williams wasted no time in reaching the third round, routing Chanelle Scheepers 6-1, 6-1 in 49 minutes.
Maria Sharapova, the 2004 champion and fifth seed, beat Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland 6-2, 6-1. Other seeded winners included No. 9 Angelique Kerber, No. 13 Eugenie Bouchard and No. 19 Sabine Lisicki.
In men’s play, fifth-seeded Stan Wawrinka needed four sets to beat Taiwan’s Lu Yen-Hsun, 7-6 (6), 6-3, 3-6, 7-5. Ninth-seeded John Isner _ the last U.S. man in the tournament – hit 32 aces and won a marathon tiebreaker to beat Jarkko Nieminen of Finland 7-6 (17), 7-6 (3), 7-5.