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Nadal's victory is not all wet

Spaniard overcomes bad weather and a 'strange' opponent in a match that stretches 92 hours.

July 05, 2007|Chuck Culpepper | Special to The Times

WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND — The match that stretched from June 30 to July 4 finally concluded Wednesday at 12:32 p.m., Wimbledon rain-ravaged time -- merely 92 hours 32 minutes after the players first went out to warm up.

And when the eighth installment finished, the loser barely shook hands with the winner, and the winner said of the loser, in embryonic English, "Is not nice." No. 2-seeded Rafael Nadal of Spain did end his Lewis-and-Clark passage to the fourth round, converting his sixth match point -- one Monday, five Wednesday -- to beat No. 28-seeded Robin Soderling, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (7), 4-6, 7-5.

He'd withstood indignities that included not only seven stoppages but a contemptuous opponent who pumped his fist after a lucky net-cord winner late in the match and mocked Nadal by tugging on his pants a la Nadal earlier in the match.

"He's very strange," Nadal said in Spanish. "I say hello to him seven times to his face, he never answers. I thought it was me, but I asked around the locker room and almost nobody has anything nice to say about him. If I fall down, he says nothing. He touches his behind, grabs his pants, makes fun of me. Very unprofessional."

The pants-grabbing mockery happened Monday evening, early in the fifth set, and wrung giggles in the audience on Court No. 1. Said Soderling, a Swede ranked No. 28: "Oh, well. It was more of a fun thing, you know....Until that, I think I had to wait for him, I mean, more than 200 times. Every point I had to wait for him. He had to wait for me one time, and he's starting already shaking his head, doing these things."

Soderling rated Nadal among the tour's most dawdling players. Nadal said of the frosty handshake, "After four days, that's not normal, no?" Soderling and Nadal wondered why play didn't resume in the clearer skies of Tuesday evening.

Nadal bemoaned that Wimbledon would resume matches for 15-minute patches even with more rain imminent, and said, "They don't think very much about the players here, maybe." And through all this clamor, somewhere in the greater London area sat No. 1 Roger Federer, who still hadn't played since Friday night because of a fourth-round walkover from the injured Tommy Haas.

Said the fresh quarterfinalist Andy Roddick: "We've been stuck in a locker room for nine hours a day, and he's been chilling out taking the double-decker bus red thing tour, maybe."

He said that from the top half of the draw, where he'll play the French hope Richard Gasquet and maybe then Federer in a semifinal.

From the bottom half, still lingering one round behind in the fourth round, Nadal said, "My opinion, the chances of the down draw is less than the up draw, no?"

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Wimbledon at a glance

A look at Wednesday's results and today's featured matches:

* Women's seeded winners: No. 23 Venus Williams def. No. 2 Maria Sharapova, 6-1, 6-3, in the fourth round; No. 1 Justine Henin def. No. 7 Serena Williams, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3; No. 18 Marion Bartoli def. No. 31 Michaella Krajicek, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, in the quarterfinals.

* Men's seeded winners: No. 2 Rafael Nadal def. No. 28 Robin Soderling, 6-4, 6-4, 6-7 (7), 4-6, 7-5; No. 4 Novak Djokovic def. Nicolas Kiefer, 7-6 (4), 6-7 (6), 6-2, 7-6 (5), in the third round; No. 3 Andy Roddick def. Paul-Henri Mathieu, 6-2, 7-5, 7-6 (6); No. 12 Richard Gasquet def. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4, in the fourth round.

* Today's top matches: No. 1 Roger Federer vs. No. 20 Juan Carlos Ferrero; No. 2 Rafael Nadal vs. No. 14 Mikhail Youzhny; No. 4 Novak Djokovic vs. No. 16 Lleyton Hewitt; No. 5 Svetlana Kuznetsova vs. No. 23 Venus Williams.

Source: Associated Press

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