Rafael Nadal is blaming the London sunshine for a hiccup in his start to the third leg of his attempt to become the first man to win a calendar-year grand slam since Rod Laver more than 40 years ago.
With the Australian and French Open trophies already in his locker, the Spaniard next needs to win Wimbledon for the first time since 2010.
Do that and there is only the US Open at Flushing Meadows, where he won as recently as 2019, to conquer.
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He was given an exacting first-round workout by Argentina’s Francisco Cerundolo on Tuesday before winning 6-4 6-3 3-6 6-4.
The match had initially shaped up as an ideal opener for the No.2 seed with the world No.43 stretching but not threatening Nadal.
But the two-time Wimbledon winner dropped his level in the third set, allowing Cherundolo to take the match into a fourth.
When the South American took a 4-2 lead, the prospect of a shock loomed into view but Nadal upped the tempo. He won 11 consecutive points to go 5-4 up, then broke again, converting his first match point to keep the dream alive.
“I was more or less under control with two sets and one break up. But then the sun was crazy there,” Nadal said.
“For a righty probably it is not a problem, but for a lefty where the sun is … I was losing the ball completely.”
Nadal, playing his first match since winning at Roland Garros, added: “I spent a long time on court. I really hope that will help”.
“I need to keep improving things. But at the end of the match I improved. At the most critical moment, I think I raised my level. That’s a very positive thing.”
Only Australian legend Laver, in 1962 and 1969, and American Don Budge in 1938, have ever completed a men’s singles calendar-year grand slam.
The feat has even eluded Serena Williams, being last done in the women’s singles by Steffi Graf in 1988.
Nadal’s path to the final has been eased by the withdrawal with COVID-19 of former finalist Marin Cilic, who he had been scheduled to meet in the fourth round.
Instead he will not face a player inside the top 20 until the quarter-finals at the earliest.
His immediate challenge is Ricardas Berankis. The Lithuanian beat Californian Sam Querry 6-4 7-5 6-3.
The day’s main shock was the defeat of Felix Auger-Aliassime, seeded six, by Maxime Cressy. In a match of three tiebreaks, the American won 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 7-6 (11-9) 7-6 (7-5).
Elsewhere in the men’s draw, illness and injury was as much a threat to seeds as opponents.
Last year’s runner-up Matteo Berrettini followed Cilic onto the COVID-19 sick bay while Grigor Dimitrov retired with an apparent groin injury when leading American Steve Johnson 6-4 2-5 .
The only other defeated seeds were Danish teenager Holger Rune, seeded 24, and Briton Dan Evans, the 28th seed.
Evans lost to Australian qualifier Jason Kubler while French Open quarter-finalist Rune fell to American Marcos Giron.
Stefanos Tsitsipas, seeded five, won in four sets against Alexander Ritschard.
Feliciano Lopez’s record-equalling Wimbledon appearance ended in defeat to Dutchman Botic van de Zandschulp
Lopez was playing in his 81st grand slam, matching Roger Federer’s singles record.
At 40 years, 293 days, he is the oldest man to start the main draw singles at Wimbledon since 41-year-old Neale Fraser in 1975.