Nadal overcomes gritty Muller
Defending champion moves into last 32 with straight sets win
Last Updated: June 25, 2011 4:32pm
Rafael Nadal survived some hairy moments to see off the challenge of Gilles Muller and progress into the second week of Wimbledon.
The defending champion, facing the man who sent him packing from SW19 in 2005, could easily have lost the first two sets on tie-breaks as Muller went close to playing - or at least serving - him off Court One.
But Nadal came through both of them, one before the rain that called time on the match on Friday evening and one on Saturday, to move into the fourth round with a 7-6 (8/6) 7-6 (7/5) 6-0 victory.
However, the Mallorcan will spend his day off on Sunday knowing he was in a real battle with the world number 96 from Luxembourg, and, had he not saved two set points in the first set, things may well have turned out differently.
Having taken the tensest of openers on Friday night, Nadal left the court for treatment following a tumble but did not return until today as the weather intervened and forced play to be cancelled at 7pm.
He showed no obvious signs of discomfort as he returned to the court, but if his body was not troubling him then Muller certainly was.
Having won 93 per cent of points on his first serve on Friday, he was just as hard for the Spaniard to break down today, giving virtually nothing away and sending down three aces in a row to stay on serve at 3-3.
By the time Muller levelled at 5-5 that percentage had reached 95 and Nadal was running out of ideas, something he illustrated when he let his normally ice-cool guard down to gesture at his box when Muller's 12th and 13th aces took the set to another tie-break.
That stayed on serve until the 11th point too as both players kept things tight, but when Muller netted after a long rally, Nadal had the chance he needed to win it 7/5.
Having lost another set he arguably deserved to win, Muller started the third looking as though his resolve had finally been broken.
His serve most definitely was in the first game, Nadal ramping up the pressure to take a first break and, when he creamed a forehand winner on the run during the second game, it was a sure sign he was in his stride.
Holding serve was no longer a formality for Muller and he was broken again in the third game, double-faulting after saving three break points, but despite knowing the game was up, he slammed home a forehand winner that even had Nadal's coach Toni applauding.
It was an unfair reflection on Muller's overall performance that he was broken again in the fifth game, but Nadal was not for offering sympathy and served out for a third-set whitewash.