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The Draw: 30 June

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Championships begin: 3 July


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Wednesday, 5 July 2017 20:29 PM BST
In-form Nadal too strong for Young
No.4 seed Rafael Nadal moved into the third round with a straight-sets win over American Donald Young READ MORE

Sometimes when tennis observers consult the record books, we find ourselves wondering if there hasn’t been some sort of gigantic clerical error.

Can it really be the case that in the years 2012 to 2015, Rafael Nadal was defeated at Wimbledon by players ranked respectively No.100, No.135, No.144 and No.102?

How baffling it is to recall those indisputably accurate facts – never more so than witnessing the early skirmishes of his campaign at Wimbledon 2017.

His second round victim on the greensward here was the former junior world No.1 and fellow left-hander Donald Young, whose frustration at his inability to cause meaningful damage was loudly evident throughout the match.

Nadal emerged victorious 6-4, 6-2, 7-5, to reach the last 32 for merely the second time since he was runner-up to Novak Djokovic here in 2011. He will play the talented No.30 seed Karen Khachanov in the third round.

“I think I’m doing the right things, but I don’t know how deep I can go in the draw,” said Nadal, who will once again become world No.1 if he reaches the final here.

“I don’t really think about that now, but I repeat what I have said before – doubts are good. Doubts give you respect for every opponent, and the motivation to keep improving when you are winning. Don’t consider yourself too good.

“This help me have a longer career and be more successful for longer. For me to have the chance of No.1 again is something beautiful. But we are just at the beginning of the tournament. I won two rounds. Happy for that.”

Nadal and Young had met twice previously on the latter’s favourite surface of hard court, both times by coincidence at Indian Wells, with each match resulting in a straight sets defeat for Young.

For me to have the chance of No.1 again is something beautiful. But we are just at the beginning of the tournament

- Rafael Nadal

On grass he fared no better, even allowing for the fact that the green stuff is not Nadal’s dream surface – word has it that the Spaniard has had some occasional success on clay.

With this year’s red dirt season now over, Nadal has played his opening two rounds here cunningly disguised as a player who loves every moment on grass – not that there have been all that many such moments to date in The Championships of 2017, as this joust was over in 11 minutes over two hours.

When ruminating on Young’s fortunes, once again those old record books give pause for thought. The Atlanta resident, who turns 28 later this month, was much spoken of as a future Slam winner in his junior days.

Indeed, in December 2004, when he was just 15, Newsweek magazine selected him as the only sportsman among a list of names in a self-explanatory feature headlined: “Who’s next?”

But whatever “next” they might have had in mind, it has never quite materialised for Young, despite the fact that he won the boys’ title here in 2007.

He arrived this year as the world No.43, five places off his highest which he reached back in 2012. This second round against Nadal would not prove to be the match where his career story was miraculously transformed.

Young struggled to camouflage his unhappiness. In the first set he followed a mistake by bellowing: "It should have been a forehand!"

Early in the second he was muttering to himself and becoming irritable with the ballkids, and after Nadal broke his service Young could be heard delivering the shouted command to the occupants of his players' box: "Every single point, I want to hear noise!"

Nadal, by contrast, barely uttered so much as a “Vamos!” – and no wonder, as such urgings were largely superfluous.

In the third set he hesitated when serving for the match, and Young commendably capitalised on the opportunity. But in the evening light, Nadal simply rolled with the punch (or “the inconvenience”, as he would call it) before delivering the killer blow. All thought of another shock defeat was simply absurd.

Spectators streaming away from Centre Court walked past many examples of a written legend much seen around the All England Club these days – “in pursuit of greatness”.

Nadal is hardly short of that commodity, with 15 Grand Slam titles already under his belt. But his hunger is insatiable, and at Wimbledon 2017 he is gunning for more.

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