Thursday 27 June 2019

Time not on Nadal's side despite straight-sets win

Rafael Nadal celebrates after winning his second round match against Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin. Photo: Tony O'Brien/Reuters
Rafael Nadal celebrates after winning his second round match against Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin. Photo: Tony O'Brien/Reuters

Daniel Schofield

As the owner of a £556,000 Richard Mille watch, Rafael Nadal continues to display a terrible grasp of time.

During his 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 second-round victory over Mikhail Kukushkin at Wimbledon yesterday, the World No 1 received two time violation warnings to add to his burgeoning collection from chair umpire Carlos Bernandes, with whom he shares plenty of history.

So wrapped up was Nadal in his own slew of processes and tics that he was not even aware of receiving the first, which was issued before the start of the match.

"Before? I received two time violations?" Nadal said with genuine bemusement. "That's the first news (I have) about that."

Nadal had broken the last segment of the 1-5-1 rule, which allow players one minute to unpack their bags, five minutes to warm up and a further minute to finalise their preparations before play gets under way.

The Spaniard hit four serves after Bernandes had called time on the warm-up and was re-arranging his bottle collection while Kukushkin was on court ready to play.

"I don't see a watch here," said Nadal as he pleaded ignorance rather than arrogance.

"I don't see that countdown. It's more difficult for me to understand what's going on. In Australia and Roland Garros, we have the watch."

Nadal admitted that the second warning, issued at the start of the third set, was a fair cop.

"That's normal," he said. "I was slow at that moment. I know I had to take the wristband, T-shirt, banana out, change everything. Probably I should go to toilet. If I go to the toilet, I had plenty of time to change everything without the time violation. I decided to stay on the chair."

It was hard day at the office all round for Nadal, with the straight sets victory belying the difficulty of Kukushkin's challenge.

It was hard not to compare it with Federer's performance against Lukas Lacko 24 hours earlier.

At 73 and 77 in the ATP Rankings, their opponents were virtually identical in stature, even if both played well above their lowly station on Centre Court.

Yet while Federer faced no break points, Nadal (right) saved 11 and was broken twice. Whereas Federer played 299 shots in 90 minutes, Nadal played 416 in two hours 23 minutes.

In the opening two rounds - all of which have been straights-sets victories - Federer has played 244 shots fewer than his great rival, the equivalent to a whole match.

With both men both well within the autumns of their glorious careers, that may have a significant bearing on witnessing a reprisal of their epic 2008 final.

Meanwhile, Federer's path to a potential ninth men's title was smoothed considerably with No 3 seed Marin Cilic crashing out of after letting slip an overnight two-set lead against Argentinan journeyman Guido Pella.

Cilic, who was scheduled to play the Swiss top seed in the semi-finals, had enjoyed the perfect preparation in winning at Queen's last month as he aimed to go one step further than last year, when he lost to Federer in the final, and was seen as the player best equipped to stop him.

He appeared to be in complete control by establishing a commanding two-set lead on Wednesday night before rain twice interrupted the contest, with play finally stopped at 8.30pm because of the slippery conditions.

The Croat, 29, was a break up in the third but managed to lose his serve after slipping heavily, gifting a foothold in the match for Pella, and the 28-year-old, ranked 83 in the world, found the form of his life in the muggy and humid conditions to exploit the opening.

Pella claimed the day's biggest scalp in breathtaking fashion, finally converting a fourth match point in the fifth set to earn a date with American Mackenzie McDonald, who is ranked 103 in the world, for a place in the last 16.

The Argentinian used the break to reset his game-plan and his decision to up the intensity of his service game in particular left Cilic floundering. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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