Nadal advances to the next round


The four-time French Open champion chalked one up for Spain over Germany at 9:12 p.m. Saturday with his 7-6 (3), 6-2, 6-3 victory over Nicolas Kiefer in the third round at Wimbledon.

But that wasn't the Spain vs. Germany victory that was foremost in his mind immediately after the match -- he wanted that to come Sunday when the Spanish soccer team took on the Germans in the European championship final.

The middle Sunday is set aside for rest and recuperation at Wimbledon, and Nadal didn't want to worry about his third-round contest with Kiefer being carried over until Monday if it became too dark to keep playing.

"I was a little bit nervous, because for me it was important to finish the match," said Nadal, stifling a yawn.

It was at the same point last year when his third-round match with Robin Soderling spanned four days because of rain.

Nadal went on to lose the final to Roger Federer for the second straight year.

So after a first set that lasted 67 minutes and went to a tiebreaker on Saturday, it was getting close to 8 p.m. and he instinctively shifted a gear.

He raced through the second set in 33 minutes, hitting winners off both wings, and was serving for the match at 5-1 at 9:03 p.m. in the third set.

Then he lost his focus for a bit. Kiefer broke him for the first time in the match, then held serve for 5-3.

With the stairwell lights in the Royal Box, the occasional camera flash and the scoreboard glow the only artificial lights adding illumination in the shadowy court, Nadal made no mistake next time.

He held at love to finish in 2 hours, 22 minutes, then he punched the air, took off both wrist bands and threw them into the crowd.

"I had an unbelievable mistake with the volley, the forehand volley at 5-1, and later he has a very good serve," he said. "Lucky for me, later I played a good game."

Rafa loves his soccer and has a bit of pedigree. His uncle, Miguel Angel Nadal, "The Beast of Barcelona," played for Spain in three World Cups, in 1994, '98 and 2002. So on Sunday evening, he planned to be kicking back with some of the other Spanish tennis players at his place in the Village watching the coverage from Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna, Austria, rooting for Spain to win its first piece of major soccer silverware since its 2-1 win over the Soviet Union in the 1964 European championship final.

Asked if his win was the first of two for the weekend for Spain, Nadal was confident.

"Tomorrow is another history, no? Happy for my win, but tomorrow is very important," he said. "If we are not confident right now with this team, we're never going to be confident, no?" Not that he thought the Spanish soccer players would be using his win over Kiefer as motivation.

"I don't think I'm going to help nothing, but for sure tomorrow I'm going to be supporting the Spanish team 100 percent."

After that, the 22-year-old Nadal can return his focus to becoming the first man since Bjorn Borg in 1980 to win French Open and Wimbledon titles in the same year. The likely roadblock is Federer, who has won the last five Wimbledon titles and is on a 61-match steak.

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