Rafael Nadal wins after slow start


LONDON -- Same start, same finish, for Rafael Nadal on a rainy Saturday at Wimbledon.

Nadal once again lost the first set of a match here this year but came back to win the next three, beating Mikhail Kukushkin of Kazakhstan 6-7 (4), 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 to reach the fourth round.

Under the closed roof on Centre Court, while play everywhere else was suspended due to the inclement weather, Nadal turned the match around by winning eight consecutive games and 14 of 15.

When the match ended, Nadal threw his wristbands to the crowd, giving one of them to a group of vocal supporters dressed in yellow and sporting Spanish flags.

He then looked up to the Royal Box and gave a thumb's-up to David Beckham, who was standing and applauding.

It marks the first time Nadal is into the second week at the All England Club since he was the runner-up in 2011. He lost in the first round last year and the second round in 2012.

In his first-round match this year, Nadal lost the opening set to Martin Klizan of Slovakia. In the second round he did the same to Lukas Rosol, the Czech player who beat him in five sets here in 2012.

But he has rallied to win all three matches despite the early setback.

"I finished all the matches playing better than (how) I started, and that's always very positive," Nadal said.

"At the beginning he was playing really long, no mistakes, very aggressive," Nadal added. "And I had a few mistakes ... I made a few unforced errors with that second serve. In the tiebreak, I didn't serve my best."

Seven-time champion Roger Federer is also back in the second week at Wimbledon after last year's early exit, beating 35th-ranked Santiago Giraldo of Colombia 6-3, 6-1, 6-3.

Playing with the roof shut at Centre Court, the fourth-seeded Federer saved the only two break points he faced and was never really tested.

Federer, who owns 17 Grand Slam titles, lost in the second round at the All England Club in 2013, ending his streak of reaching the quarterfinals at 36 consecutive major tournaments.

Giraldo never has been past the third round at a major.

Organizers postponed more than 30 doubles and junior matches due to the rainy day, but said there was a chance the weather would improve later in the day.

The postponements included two singles matches involving Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka and American John Isner and doubles matches involving top-seeded Bob and Mike Bryan.

Sunday is a scheduled off-day at Wimbledon, the only Grand Slam tournament that takes a break midway through.

Kukushkin, who lost in the first round in both his previous appearances at Wimbledon, started his match against two-time champion Nadal by belting the ball all around the court, and had 17 winners in the first set to Nadal's 11.

With Kukushkin holding three set points at 6-3 in the tiebreaker, Nadal got one back with his second ace of the tiebreaker. But Kukushkin took the first set when Nadal's backhand floated long.

Kukushkin said he felt confident after winning the first set.

"I thought I could at least win one more," he said. "But the way Rafa started to play in the second set, until the end of the match, I just had no chances. He just started to play at another level."

Nadal won more total points in the first set, 43-41, but still found himself down early in the match.

He is feeling confident going into the fourth round.

"I am very happy to be in the second week again," he said. "Playing well, good speed, good tactics on court every day. Fighting for every ball and trying to find the right solutions during the game."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.