Wimbledon 2022: Rafael Nadal overcomes errors and Ricardas Berankis to reach third round



In the end both results counted the same, but while Novak Djokovic produced a near faultless display to advance on Wednesday, Rafael Nadal was more selective when finding his top form to defeat Ricardas Berankis on Center Court and advance to the third round of WImbledon.

As the contenders from Nadal’s half of the draw fall, the comparison to Djokovic and the level that will almost certainly be required to capture the third leg of the calendar grand slam has been made clear. But, for a player whose year has been defined by rediscovering the peak of his powers, this was a far from vintage performance from the two-time Wimbledon champion.

A 6-4 6-4 4-6 6-3 slog against the World No 109 Berankis was for the most part defined by erratic hitting and unforced errors from the Spaniard. A two-set lead was established despite Nadal being far from his best of him, with the 36-year-old preventing what could have developed into an awkward evening by waking up on the big moments and the saving grace of Berankis initially struggling with the occasion.

The Lithuanian, who has now failed to go further than the second round at Wimbledon in nine attempts, settled with a well-deserved third set, but his insurgence on Center Court did not last long. Nadal broke Berankis in the opening game of the fourth and although the inevitable was delayed by what turned out to be a lengthy 50-minute rain delay while the roof closed, it was quickly wrapped up in just over three hours

A place in the third round and a match against Lorenzo Sonego is safe refuge after the hesitancy of the opening exchanges. By early in the second set, Nadal’s unforced errors were outnumbering his winners by 21 to seven. The top-spin forehand was struggling to find its arc and there were a few murmurs around Center Court as groundstrokes were shanked out of play.

Berankis had opportunities but he wilted on the big points. When the 32-year-old came out to serve at 4-5 there was a sense of inevitability about Nadal breaking for the opening set after Berankis threw a costly double fault into the mix at 15-30. It was a set that Nadal was fortunate to win and Berakis had more chances in the second as he took the early break. The door was opened for Berankis as the errors from Nadal mounted but he was unable to step through.

Nadal overcame a sloppy start on Center Court

(Getty Images)

Eventually, Nadal stemmed the dripping of errors and he discovered the angles winners to break again in the 12th game. The grunts from Nadal told you that he was beginning to hit cleaner balls on the backhand side and it provoked an improvement from Berankis, as is often the case when an unheralded player adjusts to the stage and realize they have nothing to lose.

Berankis, beginning to take on Nadal shot for shot, broke in the opening game of the third and a miracle volley at the net, followed by two winners, secured an important hold at 5-3. He served it out impressively to deny the Spaniard, as Nadal lurked and clawed at the door.

For a moment, despite Nadal having already addressed the balance between winners and errors, it looked as if he had landed the challenge that had been threatened since his sloppy start to the match. But with two winners cracked on either side from Nadal, the task became a lot more straightforward. A surging, newly cool Berankis became tight and weary, and he responded with a backhand shoveled long from the baseline for the break of serve.

A match that began in the warm early evening sun finished under the roof, a process that was inexplicably drawn out. Berankis continued to pose a late threat, summoning a final exertion from Nadal to match his newfound aggressive hitting from the baseline. Under the roof the ball was whacked with greater purpose by both. Berankis flashed a warning with a clean winner but Nadal closed it out with three aces.

It was met with relief, and a thankful wave to the crowd. Overall, the level will need to be higher than this. Nadal will know that, but he will continue to choose the moments to do so.


www.independent.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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