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Nadal leads old brigade charge into Wimbledon quarters

Rafael Nadal celebrates beating Portugal’s Joao Sousa © AFP / Ben STANSALL

LONDON, United Kingdom, Jul 8Rafael 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.”

Roberto Bautista Agut returns the ball against France’s Benoit Paire © AFP / Adrian DENNIS

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 number 22 will face either 2016 runner-up Milos Raonic of Canada or Argentina’s Guido Pella for a place in the semi-finals.

– Federer in 17th fourth round –

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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.

Later Monday, eight-time winner Roger Federer, 37, and world number one and defending champion Novak Djokovic, 33, can also make the last eight.

Should Sam Querrey, Fernando Verdasco and Mikhail Kukushkin also win, then seven of the eight quarter-finalists on Wednesday will all be aged over 30.

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.

Federer, the second seed, tackles Italy’s world number 20 Matteo Berrettini in what will be the Swiss great’s record 17th fourth round appearance at the All England Club.

Djokovic, meanwhile, insists he will not be complacent about his chances of reaching the final for the sixth time.

The highest seed that the world number one can face before the final is number 15 Raonic.

But first up for the defending champion and 16-time major winner is 21-year-old Ugo Humbert from France, who is playing in his first Wimbledon.

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“There were a lot of top seeds that went out in early rounds in Wimbledon,” said Djokovic.

“That’s why these kind of tournaments are regarded as the most important events where you always come out with your best game.”

Until this year, world number 66 Humbert had never played a match on grass either as a junior or a professional.

Should Djokovic emerge triumphant, he would face either Belgian 21st seed David Goffin or Spanish veteran Verdasco in what would be his 11th quarter-final at the tournament.

Raonic, beaten by Andy Murray in the 2016 final, has made the quarter-finals in the last two years.

He tackles 26th seed Guido Pella, who has reached the last 16 at a Slam for the first time in 20 attempts.

Monday’s other ties see 2017 semi-finalist Querrey face last-16 debutant and US compatriot Tennys Sandgren.

Japan’s Kei Nishikori, a quarter-finalist in 2018, takes on Kukushkin.

Nishikori recorded his 400th tour victory when he beat Steve Johnson in Saturday’s third round.

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