Tennis-Nadal eyes easier passage to Wimbledon fourth round

LONDON, June 28 Sat Jun 28, 2014 4:00am BST

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LONDON, June 28 (Reuters) - World number one Rafael Nadal, into the third round for the first time since 2011, will be hoping for an easier ride on the Wimbledon grass after two tough rounds when he meets Mikhail Kukushkin on Saturday.

He joins three other former Wimbledon champions -- Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova -- bidding for a place in Monday's fourth round.

Organisers will be crossing their fingers that the weather forecasters will be proved wrong again. Despite cloudy skies, the rain expected to disrupt Friday's play did not materialise, but showers are expected on Saturday.

They will not affect play on Centre Court, the tournament's showpiece stage with its retractable roof, where French Open champion Nadal, champion in 2008 and 2010, opens the proceedings against the Kazakh world No. 63.

Nadal had to fight back from a set down in the first two rounds against Martin Klizan of Slovakia and Lukas Rosol of the Czech Rebublic.

"To be in the third round here again after two, three years is very positive news," Nadal said.

Sharapova, like Nadal, hoping to make it a French Open and Wimbledon double after claiming the Roland Garros title earlier this month, takes on unseeded American Alison Riske in Centre Court's second clash.

World No. 1 Serena Williams, whose older sister Venus was defeated by another former champion Petra Kvitova on Friday, is first on the roofless Court One, playing Alize Cornet. Serena, a five times Wimbledon champion, exited at the fourth round stage last year.

Roger Federer, looking for an eighth Wimbledon title, will play World No. 35 Santiago Giraldo from Colombia later in the day on Centre Court.

Federer's Swiss compatriot Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka will be one of the players anxious for another dry day as he is set to face Denis Istomin, from Uzbekistan, in the last match scheduled on Court One.

(Reporting by Sarah Young; editing by Clare Lovell)

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