LONDON (AFP) – French Open champion Rafael Nadal narrowly avoided an embarrassing exit at Wimbledon as he dug deep to beat Germany`s Philipp Petzschner 6-4, 4-6, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2, 6-3 in the third round on Saturday.
Nadal, the 2008 winner here, had been pushed to five sets by unheralded Dutchman Robin Haase in the previous round and once again he struggled to stay on top of an opponent he was expected to dismiss with ease.
The Spanish second seed had to come from two sets to one down to beat Haase and he was pushed into the same position again before finally securing a clash with France`s Paul-Henri Mathieu in the last 16.
"I`ve been fighting a lot last two matches," Nadal said. "Physically I have a little bit of a problem on my right knee but I have one and a half days to get recovered.
"I am happy to be in the fourth round. For me it is very good news to have had very tough matches and win in the end."
There were no such problems for British fourth seed Andy Murray, who routed France`s Gilles Simon 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 to move into the second week without dropping a set in three matches.
Earlier, defending women`s champion Serena Williams and 2004 winner Maria Sharapova on Saturday advanced to a fourth round clash.
Serena had lost just five games in the first two rounds at the All England Club and she gave another dominant display to dispatch Slovakia`s Dominika Cibulkova 6-0, 7-5 in the third round.
She will meet a familiar foe in Russian 16th seed Maria Sharapova, who beat Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 7-5, 6-3, to set up a rematch of the 2004 final here.
Sharapova, then a relatively unknown 17-year-old, won her first Grand Slam by downing Serena 6-1, 6-4, but she knows this rematch will be a tough challenge.
"It`ll be a really tough match. She`s a defending champion and playing really well," Sharapova said.
American top seed Serena, who has lifted the Venus Rosewater dish awarded to the women`s champion three times, clearly has no intention of expending unnecessary energy here - with her victory over Anna Chakvetadze in the second round taking just 49 minutes.
The world number one continued that trend as she won the first set without dropping a game for the third successive match before closing out the tie by breaking in the 12th game of the second set.
That was a far more sedate encounter than Romanian 31st seed Victor Hanescu`s meeting with Daniel Brands on Friday.
Hanescu allegedly spat at the crowd before quitting his third round men`s singles match.
He had blown a two-set lead and fell behind in the deciding set before the spitting incident, which reportedly followed heckling by fans on Court 18.
Hanescu then appeared to deliberately foot-fault and double-fault before retiring from the match, citing a leg injury.
On Saturday he discovered he has been punished with a 7,500-dollar fine for unsportsmanlike conduct and the same total for "not using best efforts".
Williams was followed onto Centre Court by world number one Rafael Nadal, who plays German 33rd seed Philipp Petzschner.
Elsewhere in the Championships, men`s ninth seed David Ferrer of Spain beat Frenchman Jeremy Chardy in five sets to earn a meeting with Swedish sixth seed Robin Soderling, who remains in the hunt for a second successive Grand Slam final appearance after defeating Thomaz Bellucci.
French 10th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga beat Tobias Kamke in three sets to book a fourth round clash with compatriot Julien Benneteau, who overcame Fabio Fognini.
In the women`s singles, Italian 10th seed Flavia Pennetta lost 6-2, 6-3 to Klara Zakopalova, while 14th seed Victoria Azarenka was beaten 7-5, 6-0 by world number 62 Petra Kvitova.
Chinese ninth seed Li Na was never in danger of following those seeds out as she routed Australia`s Anastasia Rodionova 6-1, 6-3.
Also through to the last 16 were Danish third seed Caroline Wozniacki, who beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 7-5, 6-4 and Polish seventh seed Agnieszka Radwanska, who defeated Sara Errani.
BDST: 1214hrs, June 27, 2010