Rafael Nadal turned on the style as he cruised into the last 16 of Wimbledon with a 6-1 6-2 6-4 victory over Lorenzo Sonego on Centre Court.
After slightly underwhelming performances in previous rounds this tournament – against Francisco Cerundolo and Ricardas Berankis respectively – Nadal was back to his brilliant best, dominating his opponent with an energetic and almost faultless display to set up a match with Botic van de Zandschulp in the fourth round.
“Well [it was] probably my best match without a doubt in the championship, I think against probably the most difficult player I have faced,” Nadal told the BBC at the conclusion.
“I have been able to raise my level a lot [so I’m] super happy about that. I’m wishing Lorenzo all the very best for the rest of the season. I think he’s a great player here on grass. Last year he made the fourth round and this year he got a good result again so I think he’s got a great future here.”
When quizzed about his fitness, Nadal wasn’t giving much away.
“It’s always a tricky thing,” he said.
“I went through some tough injuries in my tennis career but now in some way I feel very lucky that I’m still able to play at my age. I never thought that would be happening ten years ago so I just feel very, very lucky. I just say thanks to life and everybody that supported me for making that happen.”
The 36-year-old set the tone with a venomous backhand and a couple of volleys as he held to love in consecutive service games, breaking his opponent in just the third game after Sonego overhit a forehand.
Sonego missed an opportunity to break back following two double-faults from Nadal, and it was a chance he would rue as the two-time Wimbledon champion took a commanding 5-1 lead.
Ultimately it took Nadal just over 27 minutes to wrap up the first set – dropping just two service points throughout and finishing with a delightfully dismissive forehand at the net.
Despite cornering his illustrious opponent, Sonego was again broken in the opening set as Nadal thundered a delightful crosscourt winner.
Nadal held service and made it a double break after a couple of unforced errors from the Italian. He was visibly frustrated as he hit a volley long but recovered quickly to make it 4-0.