Wimbledon 2022: Rafael Nadal shows rustiness in battle with Ricardas Berankis to reach third round

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 (AP)
(AP)

Wimbledon was always going to be the hardest ask for Rafael Nadal in his quest for a clean sweep of Grand Slams in a calendar year.

He came through a second-round test against world No106 Ricardas Berankis and yet it still wasn’t as smooth as might have been expected from the Australian and French Open winner.

Nadal has not played on grass for three years and, at times, it showed with a lack of fluency. In all, he was broken twice but his Lithuanian opponent threatened to do so on a few more occasions. He said after the win: "Every day is a challenge. I didn't play on grass for three years so every day is an opportunity to improve.

“I need to accept that things are not perfect and keeping working, be humble and think positive when things are not going the best way possible to improve in the next shots, games and sets."

Berankis, making his debut on a Wimbledon showcourt, had warned before the match that there were no free points against Nadal and, while the Spaniard wasn’t at his fluid best, there were still no freebies on offer to his opponent.

In the end, Nadal won 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 and yet, at points, his unfancied opponent threatened to pull off an upset.

The pattern of the match was that Berankis faded at the end of the opening two sets, while Nadal returned the favour in the third. Come the decider, Nadal simply turned the screw and raced to a 3-0 lead before the heavens opened and play was suspended while the roof was shut.

Centre Court had closed the roof for Katie Boulter’s preceding match when not a drop of rain fell and ironically opted to keep it open for Nadal’s return to Centre Court and the eventual downpour.

By that point, there was only ever one winner as the two-time Wimbledon champion got increasingly clinical.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion only needed one break to take the opening set but it was Berankis who got the opening break in the second set.

But as that set wore on, he could not match the Nadal intensity and endured two more breaks.

He went a break ahead in a third set, which he mostly dominated and looked far from the player who had not played a single grasscourt match in preparation for Wimbledon.

But as is Nadal’s wont, he refused to concede, making that third set seem like a mere blip.

It is often unclear quite how much pain Nadal is enduring in any given match. It was only after his latest French Open win that he revealed his right foot had been numb as a result of injections to nullify the issue with the foot.

He has given little away about the issue at SW19 but went for a different approach to his treatment pre-Wimbledon by way of heat to kill nerve tissue sending pain to his brain.

How well that holds up to keep the calendar Slam alive is another matter but, for now, Nadal is into the third round.

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