LONDON (AP) — Same start, same finish for Rafael Nadal on a rainy Saturday at Wimbledon.
Nadal once again lost the first set of his match but came back to win the next three, beating Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan 6-7 (4), 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 to reach the fourth round.
Maria Sharapova followed Nadal’s victory under the closed roof on Centre Court by winning the last 11 games of a 6-3, 6-0 victory over American Alison Riske.
They were the only two matches completed by 6 p.m. Play everywhere else was suspended due to the inclement weather and there were more than 30 matches, mostly in doubles and juniors, postponed.
Organizers resumed some of the suspended matches with weather improving in the early evening, including top-seeded Serena Williams against Alize Cornet of France. They were at 1-1, 40-40 when play resumed.
The postponements included two singles matches involving Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka and American John Isner and doubles matches involving top-seeded Bob and Mike Bryan and Serena and Venus Williams.
One match guaranteed of being completed was the final one scheduled under the roof at Centre Court – seven-time champion Roger Federer played Santiago Giraldo of Colombia.
Nadal turned his match around by winning eight consecutive games and 14 of 15.When it ended, Nadal threw his wristbands to the crowd, giving one of them to a group of vocal supporters dressed in yellow and sporting Spanish flags.
He then looked up to the Royal Box and gave a thumb’s up to David Beckham, who was standing and applauding.
It marks the first time Nadal is into the second week at the All England Club since he was the runner-up in 2011. He lost in the first round last year and the second round in 2012.
In his first-round match this year, Nadal lost the opening set to Martin Klizan of Slovakia. It was the same start in the second round against Lukas Rosol, the Czech player who beat him in five sets here in 2012.
In fact, Nadal lost the first set of the French Open final to Novak Djokovic, and then won the title in four sets. So that’s four Grand Slam matches in a row in which he’s lost the first set and rallied to win.
“I finished all the matches playing better than (how) I started, and that’s always very positive,” Nadal said.
“At the beginning he was playing really long, no mistakes, very aggressive,” Nadal added. “And I had a few mistakes … I made a few unforced errors with that second serve. In the tiebreak, I didn’t serve my best.”
Kukushkin said he felt confident after winning the first set.
“I thought I could at least win one more,” he said. “But the way Rafa started to play in the second set, until the end of the match, I just had no chances. He just started to play at another level.”
So did Sharapova. She was broken in the first game of the match, fell behind 3-1 then shut out Riske the rest of the way, clinching the match with a stinging forehand passing shot.
Sharapova, the 2004 Wimbledon champion and who won the French Open earlier this month, lost in the second round at Wimbledon last year.
“I felt better as the match went on,” Sharapova said. “Alison’s a great grass-court player. She’s had some of her best results on this surface, so I knew that it was going to be a challenge today. I had a little bit of a slow start.
“I’m just happy to be in the second week after last year’s result. I wasn’t satisfied. I was looking forward to coming back very soon and here I am, giving myself another chance.”
Sunday is a scheduled off-day at Wimbledon, the only Grand Slam tournament that takes a break midway through.
Nadal is looking forward to getting back on court after the break.
“Playing well, good speed, good tactics on court every day,” he said. “Fighting for every ball and trying to find the right solutions during the game. “