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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Thursday June 30, 2022


Rafael Nadal stretched his Grand Slam winning to 16 with his victory over Ricardas Berankis on Day 4, and a lot of things are going right for the 22-time Grand Slam champion at Wimbledon.

Tennis Express

For starters, his half of the draw has completely imploded due to upsets and Covid. This is not an understatement...

No.8 seed Matteo Berrettini, the hottest player on grass ahead of Wimbledon is out with Covid, as is 17th-seeded Marin Cilic, a former Wimbledon finalist and always a threat to wreak havoc on grass. Then there is Felix Auger-Aliassime, the No.6 seed, who was bounced my Maxime Cressy in the first round.

Those three players were Nadal’s projected round of 16 (Cilic), quarterfinal (Auger-Aliassime) and semifinal (Berrettini) opponents, which means that week two might not be so much of a gauntlet for Nadal – if he can get there.

But there is still work to be done. For the moment, Nadal is very much a player in search of grass-court form and he’s not afraid to admit it.


“Well, I need to improve,” he said after his victory over the 106th-ranked Lithuanian on Thursday on Centre Court. “But that's a process. And it's important for me to accept that things are not perfect. And just keep working, being humble and accept the challenge and just think positive things all the time even when things are not going the best way possible, to be to be able to improve in the next in the next couple of shots, games or sets.”

There’s certainly a lot at stake for Nadal this year at Wimbledon. First off, the 36-year-old is 16-0 at the Grand Slams this year, and still in the running to win the calendar Slam. At Wimbledon, he stands to become the oldest champion in tournament history if he wins the title, and he has already passed Martina Navratilova on the all-time Grand Slam singles win list with 307.

That said, Nadal knows he needs to continue working himself into the tournament, with the dangerous Italian, 27th-seed Lorenzo Sonego, lurking in the third round.

“I didn’t play much on grass for the last three years, so every day is is an opportunity to to improve and today I am through and that gives me the chance to keep going – very happy for that,” the hopeful Spaniard said after improving to 55-12 lifetime at Wimbledon.

The stats agree with Nadal’s words: Through two rounds, Nadal has hit 58 winners and committed 80 unforced errors; he’s struck 20 forehand winners and 44 forehand unforced errors. He has won 47 percent of his baseline points and had his serve broken six times.

Very un-Nadal numbers indeed...

According to the statistical website Jeu, set et maths, Nadal has dropped a set in each of his first two rounds at a Slam for just the fourth time in his career.


So there is work to be done, and Nadal was built for this type of challenge. Expect him to be sharper on Saturday, and even more so in week two.

 

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