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Nadal Holds Off Kukushkin Onslaught To Power Into Fourth Round

Wimbledon, Great Britain

Nadal© Getty ImagesRafael Nadal is through to the fourth round for the first time since 2011.

After a difficult start, World No. 1 Rafael Nadal found his range to power into the Wimbledon fourth round with a 6-7(4), 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 victory over Mikhail Kukushkin on a rain-hit Saturday at the All England Club.

While play was suspended on all the outside courts, Nadal recovered from the loss of the first set under the closed Centre Court roof to reach the fourth round for the first time since finishing runner-up in 2011 (l. to Djokovic).

Nadal has dropped a set in each of his first three matches, also battling against Martin Klizan and Lukas Rosol, the man who upset the Mallorcan in the 2012 second round.

"I've finished all the matches [this week] playing better than when I started; that's very positive,” Nadal told BBC television. “I'm very happy to be in the second week again after two years of losing in the first and second round. I had good tactics today; I was fighting for every ball and looking for solutions."

Watch Nadal Interview

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Reaction: Nadal Encouraged By Strong Finish

The 28-year-old Nadal is looking to win the Roland Garros-Wimbledon double for the third time, having succeeded in 2008 and 2010. The Spaniard captured his 14th Grand Slam championship three weeks ago in Paris, beating Novak Djokovic in the final.

World No. 63 Kukushkin came out firing in the first set, thumping 17 winners past Nadal as he edged the Spaniard in the tie-break to take the opener. But Nadal withstood the onslaught and found his range in the second set, surging into a 5-1 lead and levelling the match. The left-hander dictated the remainder of the match, wrapping up victory in two hours and 34 minutes, having committed just 11 unforced errors.

"I think at the beginning he was making no mistakes and was very aggressive," Nadal told BBC television. "I made a few mistakes on his second serve and a few unforced errors. It took me to a tie-break and I didn’t serve my best, that's what happened. Without serving your best in a tie-break against someone who is playing well, it is impossible."

Nadal will next square off with Aussie young gun Nick Kyrgios in a blockbuster Round of 16 encounter. KyrgiosKyrgios became the youngest member of the Top 100 in the Emirates ATP Rankings after ousting fellow rising star Jiri Vesely 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, 6-2 in a rain-delayed duel on Saturday.

"The rain delay played a massive part in that match," shared Kyrgios. "[Vesely] had a lot of momentum. The rain came. I was in the locker room reflecting on what I have to do and change, and I thought I played some really good tennis in the last three sets."

In moving into his first Grand Slam fourth round, the 19 year old became the first wild card to advance as far at Wimbledon since Juan Carlos Ferrero did so in 2009 (l. to Murray). Kyrgios had saved nine match points -- tied for the most at a major in the Open Era -- in a second round upset of former semi-finalist Richard Gasquet.

"I never thought that I would be seeing Nadal in my fourth round Wimbledon in my 19th year," said Kyrgios. "I thought it would take years and years of work to finally have an opportunity like that. To think that it's going to happen in about a day is daunting, but so exciting, as well."

"Young players are very dangerous as they always have something special," Nadal said of Kyrgios. "They are able to play with no pressure. They are fresh. He has a great serve. He's an aggressive player."

Paes/Stepanek Survive Three-Hour Battle
Fifth seeds Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek won a marathon doubles affair against Santiago Gonzalez and Scott Lipsky, prevailing 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 11-9 to advance to the third round.

Paes is seeking his second Wimbledon doubles crown after triumphing alongside countryman Mahesh Bhupathi in 1999. Two-time Grand Slam champion Stepanek, meanwhile, enjoyed his best result at Wimbledon last year, when he reached the semi-finals with Paes.

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