Former champions Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic advanced to the fourth round, while third-ranked German Alexander Zverev suffered yet another upset loss in a Grand Slam tennis tournament, losing 7-6 (7-2), 4-6, 5-7, 6-3, 6-0 to Latvia’s Ernests Gulbis in the third round of Wimbledon.
Australia’s Alex de Minaur, world number 80, was no match for world number 1 Nadal, who defeated him 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 on Saturday as the Spaniard ensured to keep the top spot of the ATP ranking upon its release following the tournament. Having reached the round of 16, where he fell in 2017, Nadal will maintain at least a 50-point advantage in the ATP ranking over his main rival, Roger Federer of Switzerland, who is the defending champion and so will not add any points to his ranking from this year’s tournament.
Nadal stormed to a 6-1 lead in just 33 minutes based on the strength of two service breaks, while remaining untouchable on serve, as he faced no break points during the opener. Nadal’s powerful forehand and his effectiveness on serve – winning more than 80 percent of the first and second serve to put in play during the second set – proved more than de Minaur could handle.
De Minaur squandered two break points during the second set, and conceded his own the same number of times to fall two sets behind. With everything on the line, de Minaur forced Nadal into longer rallies, giving one of the trademark performances that have distinguished him as a promising young player. Squandering a breakpoint, de Minaur saw his serve broken once in the third set, which proved to be decisive.
Although the Australian fended off a match point, he was unable to save the second, with Nadal approached the net playing a backhand volley to seal the win.
Three-time champion Djokovic rallied from a set down to defeat home-crowd favourite Kyle Edmund 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 and advance to the Round-of-16.
Djokovic lost a tight first set in which he was broken once and failed to capitalize on any of his three break-point chances against an in-form Edmund, who narrowly outplayed the 12-time Grand Slam champion from the baseline. But he got his return game going at the start of the second set and won around 43 percent of the British player’s service points the rest of the way.
Before sealing the victory, the number 12 seed had to deal with the frustration of a botched decision by the chair umpire. With Edmund serving at 3-3, 15-40 in the fourth set, the Serbian approached the net and executed a drop volley that Edmund failed to reach on one bounce despite flailing at the ball with his racquet and knocking it close to the line on the other side of the net.
The referee, however, ruled that he did get to the ball in time.
Despite Djokovic’s arguments and even though the replay clearly showed the ball bounced twice, Edmund was awarded the point. The Serbian might have considered challenging the call on the sideline, but he apparently had no idea that it had landed close to the line. Edmund rallied to hold serve for 4-3, but that would be the last game he would win in the two-hour, 54-minute contest.
Next up for Djokovic will be 22-year-old Russian Karen Khachanov, who rallied from two sets down to defeat American Francis Tiafoe 4-6, 4-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-2, 6-1 on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Zverev seemed to have the match under control when he rallied from a break down to take the third set. But Gulbis, a talented yet maddeningly inconsistent player, showed impressive meddle down the stretch to turn the tide decisively in his favour.
The result was particularly surprising considering that Gulbis had just one main-draw victory on the ATP World Tour this season coming into Wimbledon, where he had to battle through qualifying and now has won his first three main-draw matches. The 21-year-old Zverev, meanwhile, continues to underperform at tennis four biggest tournaments relative to his success at other events.
His only quarter-final result at the Grand Slams came at this year’s French Open, where he lost 6-4, 6-2, 6-1 to Austria’s Dominic Thiem.