Rafael Nadal will look to continue his unbeaten slam record this year when he faces Ricardas Berankis on Thursday afternoon. While initially among the favourites anyway, the draw for Nadal looks even kinder now. The withdrawals of Matteo Berrettini and Marin Cilic have opened the bottom half even further while the likes of Nick Kyrgios and Denis Shapovalov also struggled in victory.
Berankis picked up one of the more surprising victories on Tuesday, easing past Sam Querrey in straight sets. He broke once in each set of the 6-4 7-5 6-3 victory, taking his chances inbetween the 20 aces of his opponent. The Lithuanian has now made the second round at SW19 four times but has not yet advanced beyond that.
Nadal was nowhere near his best in an enthralling four setter against Francisco Cerundolo. He was up two sets and a break before things began to go wrong. The Argentinian had the opportunity to go a double break up in the fourth but Nadal upped the intensity on return to help him win the last four games and close it out 6-4 6-3 3-6 6-4. “It’s not a surface that we play very often, and especially in my case, for different reasons, as I said the past three years I didn’t put any foot on a grass court, so it always takes a while,” Nadal said. “It was my first match and as I know, every day is a test and today was one of these important tests.”
Berankis is unlikely to have the power to trouble Nadal in the way Cerundolo did, meaning this one should be fairly straight forward for the No.2 seed. Having finally got some matchplay under his belt, he won’t come into this one cold or get complacent. “I know at the beginning of the tournament especially, under the circumstances that I arrived here, the victory is the most important thing because that gives me the chance to practise tomorrow again and to have another match in two days. I’m happy for that, without a doubt.” Nadal said.
Prediction – Rafael Nadal in straight sets
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About Aaron Higgs
Experienced tennis writer with a focus on event previews and results.