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Nadal and Djokovic survive marathons
July 04, 2007 21:10 IST
The omens were looking good for Rafael Nadal [Images] on Wednesday after the Spaniard finally scrambled into the fourth round of a rain-drenched Wimbledon.
In a match spanning three days and hit by five frustrating rain breaks, the showers relented long enough for the 2006 runner-up to squeeze past Sweden's Robin Soderling 6-4, 6-4, 6-7, 4-6, 7-5.
Arms aloft, Nadal fell to his knees in relief when he clinched the contest on his sixth match point, the last five coming two days after the first.
"I was here for maybe five years. I don't remember something like this," said Nadal, whose on court action lasted a mere four hours and five minutes.
"It was the toughest match of my career and I'm very, very, very happy about finishing the match."
Nadal and Soderling first walked on court on Saturday but had to run for cover after the briefest of warm-ups.
However, if the triple French Open champion needed any inspiration to win a Grand Slam title outside Roland Garros, he would do well to cast his mind back to 2001.
Six years ago, a former Wimbledon finalist also survived a three-day marathon at a soggy All England [Images] Club and went on to lift the trophy.
That man was Goran Ivanisevic, and Nadal made sure he kept alive his hopes of following in the Croat's footsteps by booking a fourth round meeting with Mikhail Youzhny.
Novak Djokovic had also been left in limbo since Monday and he celebrated his 7-6, 6-7, 6-2, 7-6 win over Nicolas Kiefer with a silent prayer and sign of the cross.
A misfiring backhand from Kiefer finally ended third round proceedings at 12.57 p.m. local time on Monday, five days behind schedule.
On a day usually reserved for men's quarter-finals, Andy Roddick [Images] found himself lagging behind by a round but he had to endure only a two-day battle with Paul-Henri Mathieu and duly dispatched the Frenchman 6-2, 7-5, 7-6.
"Endless waiting in the locker room can get demoralising. Boredom takes over. We all start getting a little loopy," said the third seed.
The American remained on a semi-final collision course with four-times champion Roger Federer [Images] by reaching the last eight without dropping a set. But as was the case in his three previous matches, the 24-year-old was once again stretched into a tiebreak in third set.
The men were not the only ones playing catch-up as former champions Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova [Images] were still stranded in the last 16. They were shunted on to court three on Tuesday and managed to contest only three points before the heavens opened.
A day later they were back in the more familiar surroundings of Centre Court but for once second seed Sharapova would have been delighted to see the showers as she was trailing 6-1, 1-1 when play was halted.