LONDON: Rafael Nadal avenged his shock 2012 Wimbledon defeat to Lukas Rosol on Thursday with a tense and hard-fought 4-6, 7-6 (8/6), 6-4, 6-4 win over the big-hitting Czech.
World number one Nadal did it the hard way, however, dropping the first set and then trailing 2-4 in the second before then having to save a set point in the tiebreaker.
But the 2008 and 2010 champion, who lost in the first round to Steve Darcis in 2013, wrapped up a place in the third round for the first time since 2011 on a third match point.
His mighty roar and extravagant fist pump at the moment of victory, which shook Centre Court to the core, spoke volumes as the hurt and humiliation of two years ago was finally vanquished.
“I tried to keep fighting and waited for my moment,” said Nadal, after dropping the first set for the second time in two matches at this year’s Wimbledon.
“I saved a set point in the tiebreaker which was very important because to be two sets down to a big server like Rosol would have been very dangerous.”
Nadal, who next faces Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan, finished with 35 winners to Rosol’s carefree hammering of 50, but crucially the Spanish winner of 14 Grand Slam titles gave up just nine unforced errors in the 2hr 44min encounter.
“I don’t think in terms of revenge,” insisted Nadal. “All matches are different. When I lost in 2012 it was because the opponent played better.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s Rosol or any other player, the goal is to play as well as possible. Now I feel a little tired, there was a lot of tension but I played great towards the end.”
Seven-time champion Roger Federer breezed into the third round with a 6-3, 7-5, 6-3 win over Luxembourg qualifier Gilles Muller and next faces either 30th-seeded Marcel Granollers of Spain or Santiago Giraldo of Colombia.
Federer, seeded fourth, completed his match under the Centre Court roof after rain brought an early halt to play on the outside courts.
“It was only my second match and a totally different opponent to the first one — big lefty, coming to the net, keeping the ball short,” the Swiss said.
“It was really a serving contest out there, I thought, and I’m happy I made it because the second set was tough with the rain delay and I wasn’t having many looks on his serve.”
Canadian eighth seed Milos Raonic reached the third round for the first time with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win over Jack Sock of the United States and goes on to face 2013 quarter-finalist Lukasz Kubot of Poland.
Japanese 10th seed Kei Nishikori also moved into the third round with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-1 thrashing of American qualifier Denis Kudla courtesy of 40 winners.
The 24-year-old will next play Italian lucky loser Simone Bolelli, who put out German 22nd seed Philipp Kohlschreiber 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5.
Czech 20-year-old Jiri Vesely stunned France’s Gael Monfils 7-6 (7/3), 6-3, 6-7 (1/7), 6-7 (3/7), 6-4 and now faces Australian teenager Nick Kyrgios who saved nine match points in a 3-6, 6-7 (4/7), 6-4, 7-5, 10-8 win over French 13th seed Richard Gasquet, a 2007 semi-finalist.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga rescued French pride by defeating Sam Querrey 4-6, 7-6 (7/2), 6-7 (4/7), 6-3, 14-12 in a match held over from Wednesday when the American had squandered a match point.
Swiss fifth seed and Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka also went into the last 32, beating 2010 quarter-finalist Lu Yen-Hsun of Taiwan, 7-6 (8/6), 6-3, 3-6, 7-5.
Five-time women’s champion Serena Williams handed South Africa’s Chanelle Scheepers a 49-minute thrashing to race into the third round with a 6-1, 6-1 victory and next meets French 25th seed Alize Cornet.
“I feel okay. I don’t want to feel great necessarily right now because hopefully I have several more matches I can play,” said 17-time major winner Williams.
The 32-year-old American overwhelmed Scheepers with 26 winners and eight aces.
The 2004 champion Maria Sharapova booked her place in the third round with a crushing 6-2, 6-1 win against Swiss qualifier Timea Bacsinszky.
The 27-year-old will face Alison Riske, the American world number 44, for a place in the last 16.
“You always get a few butterflies stepping onto a court where you’ve had so many good matches, but I’m happy with the way I’m playing,” said French Open champion Sharapova.