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Rafael Nadal in Wimbledon quarterfinals for first time since 2011

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LONDON — After seven years of struggles, Rafael Nadal is finally looking like a contender again at Wimbledon.

The top-ranked Spaniard is back in the quarterfinals at the All England Club for the first time since 2011 – and playing a lot like the man who reached his fifth final that year.

“It’s true it has been a while,” Nadal said about his return to the last eight. “But when I come here, I come here thinking that I can do a good result, no?”

Clearly, the King of Clay hasn’t forgotten how to play on grass.

The 11-time French Open champion beat Jiri Vesely 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 on Centre Court on Monday and has yet to drop a set in this tournament. While tougher tests are still to come, it seems the old Nadal is back at Wimbledon.

That’s the Nadal who earned two titles and three runner-up finishes in a six-year span from 2006-11, despite missing the 2009 tournament with knee problems. Not the one who made it past the second round only once in the four years after that, or who was knocked out by Gilles Muller in the fourth round last year after missing 2016 with another injury.

While Nadal has found grass difficult of late, he insists some of those results were misleading.

“To be fair and honest, we have to think about the things that happened. In 2012, 2013, I was not able to compete. Even if I played, I was not able to compete with the knees the way I had. (In) 2014, I played a good tournament. I lost in the fourth round against a player I can lose to (Nick Kyrgios), 2015 was a very bad year for me, not on grass, on most of the surfaces. It’s normal that I lost here, too. In 2016 I didn’t play because of my wrist. In 2017 I played well, 2018 I am playing well.”

Vesely can attest to that.

Nadal hit 37 winners to only 12 unforced errors and erased the only break he allowed by breaking back immediately in the third set.

His play already has fans and commentators dreaming of another final between Nadal and Roger Federer – on the 10th anniversary of their five-set classic that the Spaniard won. Standing in the way yet could be fourth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro in the quarterfinals – the Argentine’s fourth-round match was suspended with him holding a 2-1 set lead – and then possibly three-time champion Djokovic in the semifinals.

The idea of another Nadal-Federer final seems to have most people quite excited – except Nadal himself. The Spaniard is hoping his old rival, and eight-time champion, gets knocked out before that.

“If he’s in the final, I am excited to play Roger,” he said. “Facing Roger again will be something fantastic. If you ask me if I prefer another (opponent), I say yes. That’s the point. It’s about being smart, no?”

Federer cruises into Wimbledon quarterfinals

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WIMBLEDON, England (AP) Roger Federer delivered another vintage Centre Court performance to reach a record-extending 17th Wimbledon quarterfinal.

Federer ousted 17th-seeded Matteo Berrettini 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 in a match that only lasted 1 hour, 14 minutes.

The eight-time Wimbledon champion lost only one point on his serve in the first set and didn’t face a break point until he was up 3-0 in the third. He saved that one and went on to serve out the match at love.

The 37-year-old Federer became the oldest man to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal since Jimmy Connors did it at 39 at the 1991 U.S. Open.

Djokovic reaches quarterfinals at Wimbledon

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WIMBLEDON, England (AP) Four-time champion Novak Djokovic is into the Wimbledon quarterfinals again after beating Ugo Humbert in straight sets.

Djokovic took advantage of 34 unforced errors to win 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 on No. 1 Court and set up a meeting with David Goffin.

Djokovic, who beat Kevin Anderson in last year’s final, reached his 11th Wimbledon quarterfinal. That puts him level with Boris Becker in fourth place on the all-time list. Roger Federer was trying to reach a record-extending 17th later.

Goffin beat Fernando Verdasco 7-6 (9), 2-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Sam Querrey also advanced after winning an all-American matchup against Tennys Sandgren 6-4, 6-7 (9), 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5).