LONDON (Reuters) - A ominous-looking Rafa Nadal kept up his bid for a third Wimbledon and French Open double in style on Friday, serving notice he is not be to messed with in his 6-1 6-4 7-6(3) defeat of big-serving Karen Khachanov to reach the last 16.
The Spanish fourth seed scorched his way through the first set, threatening to sizzle the parched Centre Court grass with the pace of some of his shots.
He committed only four unforced errors in that set and visibly berated himself when he dropped even a point. So rare were his slip-ups, that the crowd greeted them with gasps.
“I think for a while, I played fantastic. The first set and a half I think was a great, great level. I am very happy with the way I played,” Nadal said as he came off court.
The 30th-seeded Russian put it more bluntly: “At the beginning he started really fast. He was destroying me.”
Khachanov, 21, regrouped in the second set as Nadal’s level dipped from ferocious to merely fearsome. He stopped the slide after Nadal broke in the third game by booming down four aces to hold in the fifth.
He reached a set point in the third, but Nadal was too strong and too accurate to let him back into the match and ruin his straight-sets run.
Nadal, 31, won this year’s French Open, his 10th title there, without dropping a set. He has kept up the pace at Wimbledon as he aims to covert that red-hot clay form to claim his first grasscourt slam title since 2010.
With Friday’s win, he has now bagged 28 consecutive sets at the grand slams this year -- laying down a marker to his rivals in his quest for a 16th major title.
Nadal now has two days to rest up before facing a grasscourt specialist in Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller, seeded 16, in the fourth round on Monday.
And like all those who have had a good week in the office, Nadal was planning a relaxing weekend.
“Just practice and ... relax at home with my family, maybe watch some golf maybe, some films with my cousins. My small cousins are here. Maybe play some football with them. That’s all,” he said.
Reporting by Alison Williams; Editing by Ken Ferris and Larry King