WIMBLEDON, England — Rafael Nadal’s attempt to complete a third French Open-Wimbledon double is still alive, thanks to his forehand.
The shot had let the second-seeded Spaniard down in the first hour of his second-round match against Lukas Rosol, the Czech who had ousted him at the same stage two years ago.
It found its target when Nadal faced a set point that would have left him two sets down on Centre Court. After cracking a forehand, The 14-time major winner set up a set point of his own with a serve out wide followed by a forehand down the line. He took the second set as Rosol double-faulted and was never in trouble again as he moved to the third round with a 4-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-4, 6-4 win.
“The difference maybe is one point,” Nadal told reporters. “Maybe if I lose that set point in the second set, if that forehand down the line went out, maybe will be here with a loss. That forehand was a perfect forehand for that moment.”
Former champions Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, and Roger Federer also won Thursday.
The victory may turn around Nadal’s chances at Wimbledon, as he has struggled in the past two years to make the transition from clay to grass, where balls bounce lower and players have to bend their knees more.
After Rosol handed him what was then his earliest exit in a major in 2012, Nadal didn’t play again for seven months to overcome a knee injury. Last year, Nadal was upset in the first round against Belgian journeyman Steve Darcis.
The Spaniard’s grass-court preparation wasn’t ideal this year, as he lost to German Dustin Brown in his first round in Halle, Germany, shortly after winning a record-extending ninth French Open title. Nadal had cramped up during the victory ceremony at Roland Garros following a grueling final played in sweltering heat against men’s top seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia.
Rosol had Nadal on the backfoot for the first hour, unsettling the 28-year-old with returns aimed at his feet and with serves of up to 131 miles an hour. Nadal had been trailing 4-2 in the second set when he broke back to force a tie-break. Stepping closer inside the court to receive serve, Nadal found a way in the next three sets.
“It was very important to win that second set,” said Nadal, who had 46 winners while Rosol had 59.
Seven-time champion Federer of Switzerland defeated Gilles Muller of Luxembourg 6-5, 7-5, 6-3 under the retractable roof of Centre Court after rain fell in the evening. Federer has gone on to win the tournament each of the three previous times he’s beaten Muller, most recently at the 2008 U.S. Open.
John Isner is the only American man to go through to the third round after beating Jarkko Nieminen of Finland. Isner, who holds the record for the longest tennis match ever with a 2010 victory at Wimbledon that took 11 hours 5 minutes over three days to complete, came close to setting another record.
He won a first set tiebreak 19-17 today, the second-longest men’s singles tiebreak in Wimbledon history. Bjorn Borg won a 20-18 tiebreak against Premjit Lall in 1973.
American Jack Sock lost to Canadian Milos Raonic, the eighth seed, in straight sets and Kei Nishikori of Japan beat Denis Kudla of the United States.
France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga prevailed against Sam Querrey of the U.S. 14-12 in the fifth set. Both men played for a fourth consecutive day after rain interrupted play Monday evening and their match was suspended due to darkness Wednesday.
Australian wild card Nick Kyrgios, at 19 the youngest man in the singles draw, saved nine match points to upset France’s No. 13 seed Richard Gasquet.
U.S. women fared better as Madison Keys reached the third round for a second year after beating Czech Klara Koukalova in three sets as rain began to fall.
Earlier Thursday, five-time champion Williams cruised past South African Chanelle Scheepers 6-1, 6-1. French Open champion Sharapova, a winner here in 2004, defeated Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky 6-2, 6-1.
Sabine Lisicki of Germany, last year’s Wimbledon runner-up, beat Karolina Pliskova while 2008 Roland Garros title holder Ana Ivanovic of Serbia defeated China’s Zheng Jie.