Nadal, Sharapova reach last 16 at soggy Wimbledon

Sat Jun 28, 2014 1:59pm EDT
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By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) - Rafael Nadal again offered a chink of light to an opponent on his way to the last 16 at a gloomy Wimbledon on Saturday but another former champion Maria Sharapova was taking no chances under the Centre Court roof.

For the third match in a row Spaniard Nadal found himself a set in arrears against an inspired adversary, this time in the form of Kazakhstan's 63rd-ranked Mikhail Kukushkin, before switching on the after-burners to romp home 6-7 (4) 6-1 6-1 6-1.

With play suspended on every court apart from Centre because of persistent rain, Sharapova then won 11 games in a row after a sluggish start against American Alison Riske, roaring into the second week with a 6-3 6-0 victory.

Among those watching Nadal and Sharapova continue their title assaults was former England soccer captain David Beckham, one of numerous high-profile sportsmen and women occupying the Royal Box.

Nadal's matches have followed a familiar pattern.

Against Slovakian Martin Klizan and Czech Lukas Rosol he was overpowered in the opening set, so it was no surprise to witness him slip behind against Kukushkin, one of three men in the third round with a female coach - in his case his wife.

Despite losing the tiebreak there was never the same sense of danger as in the previous round against the hard-hitting Rosol who knocked out the Spaniard two years ago.

Once 14-times grand slam champion Nadal broke early in the second set Kukushkin's belief drained away and there was only ever going to be one outcome.   Continued...

Rafael Nadal of Spain reacts after defeating Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan in their men's singles tennis match at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, in London June 28, 2014.  REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett