TWO STARS AD­VANCE

Nadal, Mur­ray to fourth round

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Chris Lehourites

LON­DON» Rafael Nadal is on his way to the fourth round at Wim­ble­don, and he’s three matches away from tak­ing over as the No. 1 player in the world.

Nadal beat Karen Khachanov of Rus­sia 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (3) Fri­day on Cen­tre Court. If he reaches the fi­nal at the All Eng­land Club, the two-time Wim­ble­don cham­pion will take over from Andy Mur­ray as the top-ranked player in the world.

“First set and a half, I think, was very, very well. Very happy (with) the way that I played,” Nadal said in a tele­vi­sion in­ter­view af­ter walk­ing off court. “Then it was a lit­tle bit tougher. I think I stopped a lit­tle bit with the legs and he started to hit stronger, but he’s still a tough op­po­nent and it’s im­pos­si­ble to win easy.”

De­fend­ing cham­pion Andy Mur­ray also had a tough op­po­nent, but he came through a dif­fi­cult fourth set to beat Fabio Fognini 6-2, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5.

Fognini led 5-2 in the fourth set and had five set points, but Mur­ray won the fi­nal five games to reach the fourth round.

“When you’re play­ing a guy who has all the shots like him, it’s dif­fi­cult,” Mur­ray said. “He gen­er­ates power with very short swings. It’s dif­fi­cult to see when he’s go­ing to hit the ball big and he was tak­ing me out of my rhythm.”

Nadal was play­ing in front of sev­eral sports stars seated in the Royal Box, in­clud­ing David Beck­ham. Ser­gio Garcia, the Span­ish golfer who was wear­ing his green Mas­ters jacket, was also there.

“He’s hav­ing an amaz­ing sea­son, es­pe­cially with that vic­tory, amaz­ing vic­tory in the Mas­ters,” Nadal said. “So, just great to see him and thanks for com­ing.”

Nadal is hav­ing a pretty good sea­son, too. He reached the Aus­tralian Open fi­nal, los­ing to Roger Fed­erer, and won the French Open. The ti­tle at Roland Gar­ros was his 10th at the clay-court ma­jor.

On Mon­day, Nadal will face Gilles Muller in the fourth round. Muller beat Nadal at the All Eng­land Club in 2005, but the Spa­niard got one back in 2011. That was the last time Nadal got past the fourth round at Wim­ble­don, reach­ing the fi­nal but los­ing to No­vak Djokovic.

“He’s a spe­cial­ist on grass,” Nadal said of Muller. “Prob­a­bly his best sur­face, with­out a doubt.”

Mur­ray will next face Benoit Paire. The French­man beat Jerzy Janow­icz 6-2, 7-6 (3), 6-3.

Ear­lier Fri­day, Vic­to­ria Azarenka ex­tended her Grand Slam come­back into the sec­ond week.

The for­mer No. 1 from Be­larus, who gave birth to her first child in De­cem­ber, ad­vanced to the fourth round by beat­ing Heather Wat­son 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 on Cen­tre Court.

Michael Steele, Getty Im­ages

Rafael Nadal of Spain plays a back­hand dur­ing his third-round match against Karen Khachanov of Rus­sia at the All Eng­land Lawn Ten­nis and Cro­quet Club in Lon­don.

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