Nadal comes through tough Kukushkin test
Rafael Nadal was made to work hard by Mikhail Kukushkin despite a straight-sets win in the second round at Wimbledon.
The world number one has not been past the fourth round at the All England Club since 2011, but he overcame a significant obstacle en route to the third stage on Thursday.
Nadal was pegged back in the first set and trailed in the third, before eventually prevailing on each occasion, the second seed rescuing break points throughout against a dogged rival.
Kukushkin deserved more than a 6-4 6-3 6-4 reverse, but it is Nadal who marches on to face 80th-ranked teenager Alex de Minaur next.
Kukushkin tested Nadal from the off and he recovered from an early break to level the opener with a superb backhand cross-court return.
The Kazakh kept pushing and passed up another break point opportunity, but errors crept in towards the end of the set and Kukushkin gifted Nadal the lead when a ball agonisingly bounced away off the tape.
Not initially disheartened, Kukushkin continued to hold his own but succeeded only in momentarily bringing the best out of Nadal.
A series of fine returns secured break points for the Spaniard in the second set and the pressure told when Kukushkin sent a tired backhand into the net.
Although that was enough for Nadal to see out the set, he was then forced to stave off five break points at the start of the third and his determined opponent soon had a break.
Unfortunately for Kukushkin, though, there was an instant response as he returned a spinning ball off balance and spectacularly missed the court.
Nadal eventually nudged in front, measuring a shot into the right corner of the court, and celebrated wildly before regaining his composure to serve out a hard-fought win.
Nadal  bt Kukushkin 6-4 6-3 6-4
Nadal – 19/18
Kukushkin - 28/34
Nadal – 5/3
Kukushkin - 3/1
BREAK POINTS WON
Nadal – 5/13
Kukushkin - 2/13
FIRST SERVE PERCENTAGE
Nadal – 66
Kukushkin - 72
PERCENTAGE OF POINTS WON ON FIRST/SECOND SERVE
Nadal – 64/71
Kukushkin - 58/52
Nadal – 106
Kukushkin - 85