London: Rafael Nadal reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals for the seventh time on Monday as the evergreen 30-somethings of men’s tennis threatened to take a stranglehold at the All England Club.
Third seed Nadal, the 2008 and 2010 champion, swept to an easy 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 win over outclassed Joao Sousa of Portugal.
He will next play either Sam Querrey or Tennys Sandgren in what will be his 39th appearance in a Grand Slam quarter-final.
The 33-year-old Spaniard is chasing his 19th title at the majors, which would put him just one behind the all-time record of 20 held by Roger Federer — his potential opponent in the semi-finals.
“It was a good, solid match. It’s true that the serve probably didn’t work as good as two days ago,” said Nadal, who had been equally ruthless in the third round against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga when he lost just seven games.
“A lot of positive things out there. To be back in the quarter-finals is great news for me.
“Happy to be where I am and the body is holding well, playing some good tennis — and straight sets helps.”
Also joining Nadal in the last-eight was his compatriot Roberto Bautista Agut, who reached his first Wimbledon quarter-final and second at the majors this year when he defeated France’s Benoit Paire 6-3, 7-5, 6-2.
The 31-year-old world No. 22 will face either 2016 runner-up Milos Raonic of Canada or Argentina’s Guido Pella for a place in the semi-finals.
Bautista Agut, who has now defeated Paire seven times in seven meetings, also made the quarter-finals at the Australian Open in January.
With Nadal and Bautista Agut safely through, the Wimbledon quarter-finals were turning into an old boys’ club.
For the first time, Monday’s last-16 line-up featured more players over 30 than under for the first time in the modern era.
World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty paid credit to her last 16 conqueror Alison Riske but admitted the 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 defeat was “tough to swallow”.
The 23-year-old Australian, who could lose her No. 1 ranking to the Czech Republic’s Karolina Pliskova, looked on course to keep her hopes up of becoming the first Australian women’s Wimbledon champion since Evonne Goolagong Cawley won her second crown in 1980 after taking the first set.
However, her American opponent stormed back and Barty, who had strolled through the first week without a problem, had no answer.
“It is a tough one to swallow but I lost to a better player,” said Barty.
“When her back is against the wall, she plays really well typically.”
Barty, who was the first Australian woman to be ranked world No. 1 since Goolagong Cawley, said overall she was ecstatic at the journey she had been on this year, winning the French Open and getting to the top of the rankings.
“Overall it’s been a hell of a trip,” she said.
Teenage sensation Coco Gauff’s Wimbledon fairytale came to an end on Monday, losing to Romania’s former world No. 1 Simona Halep 6-3, 6-3 in the last 16. The 15-year-old American saved three match points, but was simply out-played by her more experienced opponent.
Halep, who is into the quarter-finals for the third time, plays Zhang Shuai for a place in the last four on Tuesday.
Gauff’s cause was not helped by appearing to have suffered an abdomen strain during the second set, which entailed the trainer and doctor to attend to her while her glum looking parents — father Corey who coached her initially and mum Candi — looked on from the players box.
While on Friday she had fought back against Polona Hercog from a set down and saved two match points, 2018 French Open champion Halep is used to this level and never gave her opponent a glimmer of a hope as she closed out the match after breaking the American to lead 4-2.
“I’m really happy that I can play again in the quarter-finals,” said Halep, who was also in the last eight in 2016 and 2017.
“I enjoyed a lot the crowd, the energy today, I felt it really well.
Men’s Singles (fourth round):
Roberto Bautista-Agut (23), Spain, def. Benoit Paire (28), France, 6-3, 7-5, 6-2.
Rafael Nadal (3), Spain, def. Joao Sousa, Portugal, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2.
Women’s Singles (fourth round):
Alison Riske, United States, def. Ashleigh Barty (1), Australia, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.
Serena Williams (11), United States, def. Carla Suarez-Navarro (30), Spain, 6-2, 6-2.
Barbora Strycova, Czech Republic, def. Elise Mertens (21), Belgium, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.
Elina Svitolina (8), Ukraine, def. Petra Martic (24), Croatia, 6-4, 6-2.
Simona Halep (7), Romania, def. Cori Gauff, United States, 6-3, 6-3.
Shuai Zhang, China, def. Dayana Yastremska, Ukraine, 6-4, 1-6, 6-2.