Wimbledon: Nadal Raises His Level, Reaches Second Round For 14th Time

Rafael Nadal (photo: Wimbledon video)

WIMBLEDON/WASHINGTON, June 28, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

In his first grass-court match since 2019, Rafael Nadal was put to the test in his Wimbledon Championships first-round match against Argentina’s Francisco Cerundolo, who was making his main draw debut at the All England Club. However, after three hours and 33 minutes, the World No. 4 and second seed from Spain came through, advancing 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, in a match that captivated the packed Centre Court crowd.

The victory, which the Spaniard earned after he converted his first match point, moved Nadal into the Wimbledon second round for the 14th time in his storied career as he goes after his third title at the All England Club. He tied Hall of Famer Martina Navratilova’s 306 Grand Slam match wins and joined her in fourth place on the all-time list.

Nadal overcame the 41st-ranked Cerundolo’s comeback, in which the Argentine won the third set and was up a break in the fourth. Under pressure, the 36-year-old Nadal – 13 years his opponent’s senior – raised the level of his game and came on strong at the end of the match. He finished with 23 winners and outpointed Cerundolo 134-123. The victory improved Nadal’s 2022 win-loss record to 31-4 as he goes after a record-extending 23rd Grand Slam title.

“All the best to Francisco. He was a really tough opponent,” Nadal said in his on-court interview. “It’s been really tough for me, to be three years without being here. I’m happy to be back. It’s always amazing to play in this court. I can’t thank you enough for the support.”

Next, Nadal, who is attempting to become just the sixth man in history to win the first three Grand Slams of the season, will face 106th-ranked Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania, who defeated 157th-ranked American Sam Querrey, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3, on Court 5.

Swiatek winning streak reaches 36

World No. 1 and top seed Iga Swiatek opened play on Centre Court with a 75-minute straight-set victory over qualifier Jana Fett. It was Swiatek’s 36th straight match victory.

The 21-year-old Polish star broke the 252nd-ranked Croatian six times in 10 opportunities and outpointed Fett 62-46 to move into the second round against 138th-ranked lucky loser Lesley Pattinama Kerkhove of the Netherlands, who advanced with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 win over 256th-ranked wild card Sonay Kartal of Great Britain. Pattinama Kerkove replaced Danka Kovinic of Montenegro, who withdrew with a lower back injury.

Swiatek’s 36-match winning streak equals Monica Seles’s from 1990. A second-round win against Pattinama Kerkove would tie Martina Hingis’s season-opening 37-match winning streak from 1997.

“It’s my first match on grass this season, so I knew it was going to be tricky,” Swiatek said in her on-court interview after improving her 2022 win-loss record to 43-3. She has won six straight tournaments. “In the second set at the beginning, I lost my focus a little bit and she’s done pretty well. I’m pretty happy I came back and could finish in two sets. I’m just figuring out how to play here and trying to implement things I’ve been practicing. It’s a new experience for me.”

2019 champion Halep wins in her return to Wimbledon

It’s been three years since Simona Halep last appeared at Wimbledon. In her last match at the All England Club – a near flawless performance – she won the 2019 women’s singles title with a straight-set victory over Serena Williams inside of an hour. Now, seeded 16th and playing in her 10th Wimbledon, Halep made her return a victorious one with a 6-3, 6-2 in in 66 minutes over No. 81 Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic on No. 1 Court. Muchova, it should be noted, was a dangerous opponent who had reached the quarterfinals in each of her last two Wimbledon appearances and was a 2021 Australian Open semifinalist.

“It feels great to be back,” Halep, a former World No. 1 expressed during her on-court interview after her win. She missed last year’s Wimbledon because of a calf injury and wasn’t able to defend her title in 2020 due to the cancellation of the Championships during the pandemic. Now, with the retirement earlier this year of 2021 Wimbledon champion Ashleigh Barty, Halep is the most recent champion in the women’s draw.

“I have great memories from 2019, and it’s always a pleasure to come here to Wimbledon to play,”  Halep added. “I’m happy I could win this match because it was difficult and [Karolina] is a tough opponent. She’s playing great. It was emotional before this match, but now I want to enjoy. I’m really happy about it.”

Halep hit an economical 16 winners against just nine unforced errors, converted four of nine break points and outpointed Muchova 59-36. Next, Halep will play No. 190 Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium, who advanced with a 7-5, 6-2 win over 150th-ranked Australian qualifier Jaime Fourlis.

Around the All England Club

• No. 11 seed Coco Gauff of the United States, this year’s runner-up at the French Open, fought back from a set down to overcome No. 54 Elena-Gabriela Ruse of Romania, 2-6, 6-3, 7-5, in two hours and 29 minutes on No. 2 Court.

The 18-year-old American, the youngest player in the draw, is into the second round at Wimbledon in her three appearances. She outpointed her opponent 103-101. Ruse was one of seven Romanians in the women’s draw.

Although Ruse saved 21 of 25 break points she faced, Gauff was able to pull out the victory in part thanks to hitting 30 fewer unforced errors (26 to 56) while also producing 21 winners. The win improved Gauff to 10-2 in major first-round matches.

“Elena played an amazing match,” Gauff said during her on-court interview. “Both of us gave our heart. It was an electrifying match and I want to congratulate her on her tennis and her fight. I honestly like this court. It’s pretty loud but also intimate – you can hear every cheer and every gasp.

“First rounds are always the most nerve wracking,” Gauff added. “In the middle of the first set, I was freaking out a bit but I thought the worst that can happen is that I lose – it’s not the end of the world. And that’s when I started playing better.”

Next, Gauff will play another Romanian, Mihaela Buzarnescu, who defeated last year’s Wimbledon junior girls’ finalist Nastasja Schunk of Germany, 6-4, 6-2.

• Brit-watch: British No. 4 Heather Watson, ranked 121st, booked her place in the second round after defeating No. 110 Tamara Korpatsch of Germany, 6-7 (7), 7-5, 6-2. Watson was forced to return to No. 1 Court after her match was suspended Monday night due to local curfew tied at one set each. Not so lucky was 184th-ranked British wild card Katie Swan, who lost to Ukraine’s 76th-ranked Marta Kostyuk, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Meanwhile, 219th-ranked British wild card Paul Jubb, a former NCAA champion, gave a heroic effort but it fell just short after losing to mercurial Aussie Nick Kyrgios, 3-6, 6-1, 7-5, 6-7 (4), 7-5. Jubb saved a match point in the final set before sending a forehand wide to end the three-hour and five-minute match on No. 3 Court.

The 40th-ranked Kyrgios fired 30 aces and struck 67 winners. He outpointed Jubb 166-152 to pick up his 10th career five-set victory, including his fifth at Wimbledon.

Also, British No. 6 Ryan Peniston, who is enjoying a breakthrough summer on grass after reaching the quarterfinals at Nottingham, Queen’s Club and Eastbourne, got his Wimbledon debut off to a fantastic start with a 6-4, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Switzerland’s Henri Laaksonen. A packed Court 12 saw the 135th-ranked Peniston outpoint No. 96 Laaksonen 98-82 to advance against 93rd-ranked American Steve Johnson, who won by retirement over No. 18 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria. Dimitrov, ahead 6-4, 2-5, retired in the second set with a groin injury.

Alizé Cornet of France made her 62nd consecutive appearance in a Grand Slam main draw, which equalized the all-time record held by Ai Sugiyama. The 37th-ranked Frenchwoman upset No. 27 seed Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan, 6-3, 7-6 (5). The 32-year-old Cornet, who began her streak at the 2007 Australian Open, can achieve the record by playing in the US Open later this summer.

• Among the other seeded men who advanced to the second round were: No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, No. 11 Taylor Fritz of the United States, No. 12 Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, No. 13 Denis Shapovalov of Canada, No. 15 Reilly Opelka of the United States, No. 17 Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain, No. 19 Alex de Minaur of Australia, No. 21 Botic van de Zandschulp of the Netherlands, No. 26 Filip Krajinovic of Serbia, No. 27 Lorenzo Sonego of Italy, No. 29 Jenson Brooksby of the United States, and No. 31 Sebastian Baez of Argentina.

However, No. 6 Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada was an upset victim of French-born American Maxime Cressy. The No. 45 Cressy rallied from a set down to beat Auger-Aliassime, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 7-6 (9), 7-6 (5), in four hours and 10 minutes on No. 3 Court. Also, No. 24 Holger Rune of Denmark was upset by No. 65 Marcos Giron of the United States in straight sets, and No. 28 Dan Evans of Great Britain lost to 99th-ranked Australian qualifier Jason Kubler in straight sets.

• Among the other seeded women who moved into the second round were: No. 4 Paula Badosa of Spain, No. 5 Maria Sakkari of Greece, No. 12 Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia, No. 13 Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic, No. 17 Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, No. 20 Amanda Anisimova of the United States, No. 25 Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic, No. 32 Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain and No. 33 Zhang Shuai of China.

Meanwhile, No. 14 Belinda Bencic and No. 18 Jil Teichmann, both of Switzerland; No. 21 Camila Giorgi of Italy, and No. 27 Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan, were all upset.

Berrettini withdraws after testing positive for COVID-19

World No. 11 Matteo Berrettini of Italy, last year’s runner-up, has withdrawn from Wimbledon after testing positive for COVID-19.

“I am heartbroken to announce that I need to withdraw from Wimbledon due to a positive COVID-19 test result,” Berrettini, who was seeded eighth this year, wrote on his social media platforms. “I have no words to describe the extreme disappointment I feel.

“The dream is over for this year, but I will be back stronger. Thank you for your support.”

Coming into this year’s Wimbledon, Berrettini won back-to-back grass-court titles at Stuttgart and Queen’s Club and compiled a 9-0 win-loss record on grass.

Berrettini’s place in the draw was taken by 137th-ranked lucky loser Elias Ymer of Sweden, who lost to No. 43 Cristian Garin of Chile, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4.

Tuesday’s Wimbledon results

Wednesday’s Wimbledon order of play

Changing with the times

By the numbers

At age 40, Feliciano Lopez of Spain became the oldest man to compete in the Gentlemen’s Singles draw since Neale Fraser of Australia in 1975. However, his 2022 Wimbledon was short lived. Lopez lost to No. 21 seed Botic van de Zandschulp of the Netherlands, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3, in an hour and 32 minutes on Court 4. Lopez was outpointed 89-54.

“Quotable …”

“These are the moments you dream of as a little girl. I don’t know why I’m getting emotional. I think I have had a really rough couple of years, like so many other people have. So this means a lot.

“I had a bit of a disaster match last year on this court, having match points [against Kristie Ahn]. I really wanted to turn it around and win this year.”

Heather Watson of Great Britain, during her on-court interview after winning her first-round match.

“Those last two games, I knew it was something serious because he’s a guy who lays his heart on the line. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. It’s just super unfortunate. This is the first time this has happened to me really, so, yeah, it’s tough.

“The last couple of games were a bit up and down for me. It’s kind of hard because you’re trying to stay focused on your half of the court and you’re looking over there, you’re not looking over there. It’s one of those things where you just have to put your head down.

“It’s just super unfortunate because Grigor is a phenomenal guy and great for the sport of tennis. So, to see him injure himself on one of those serves in the second set, it’s a bummer for everyone here, really.”

Steve Johnson of the United States, who advanced to the second round due to the retirement over Grigor Dimitrov, who injured his groin in the second set of their match Tuesday on No. 2 Court.