Wimbledon big guns Nadal and Djokovic move a step closer to semi-final showdown

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Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are on course for a semi-final meeting at Wimbledon after both came through their third-round matches on Saturday.

Nadal ensured he will keep the world number one ranking whatever happens during the second week by easing past Alex De Minaur.

The Spaniard’s 6-1 6-2 6-4 victory means Roger Federer cannot catch him even if the Swiss goes on to win a ninth title at the All England Club.

Not that the ranking by his name means much to Nadal for the moment.

“Of course I prefer to be number one than number two, no doubt about this,” he said. “I really didn’t come here to hold number one I just came here to try to do the best tournament possible.

“It is very positive to be already in the second week, winning three matches.”

Djokovic ended British interest in the singles as he beat Kyle Edmund 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-4.

“I thought it was a high-quality tennis match, to be honest,” Djokovic said.

“It was very, very, very intense. Just a couple points here and there.

“Obviously the fourth set was very close. I just made him play an extra shot, got that crucial break in the ninth game that allowed me to win the match.”

Edmund still enjoyed the experience and said: “It was great. I really enjoyed it. Playing on Centre Court is always like a dream and a great experience. At points in the match it was really loud. It was a great atmosphere to be in.”

Djokovic felt some in the crowd overstepped the mark with their behaviour, saying: “I expected them to support Kyle, obviously. But at times they were slightly unfair to me. That’s how it goes.”

The biggest threat to Nadal reaching the last four could well be fifth seed Juan Martin del Potro, who is through to the fourth round for the first time since 2013 after a 6-4 7-6 (7/4) 6-3 victory over Frenchman Benoit Paire.

Del Potro pushed Novak Djokovic all the way in one of Wimbledon’s most memorable semi-finals five years ago before his career was nearly ruined by wrist problems, but he appears back to his best.

The Argentinian said: “I had my chances to win here a few years ago. I don’t know how far I will go in this tournament, but I’m confident with my game at this time. But I always say the same. Roger and Rafa are the favourites.”

Juan Martin del Potro is making a claim for Wimbledon glory
Juan Martin del Potro is making a claim for Wimbledon glory (John Walton/PA)

Nick Kyrgios crashed out in three sets to Kei Nishikori, who took the first set of his 6-1 7-6 (7/3) 6-4 win in just 19 minutes.

Kyrgios was a potential winner given his recent form on the grass but he was second best on Court One.

“It’s not shattering. I mean, I’m disappointed. I wanted to do well. There’s not much I can do really,” Kyrgios said.

Fourth seed Alexander Zverev said he felt like someone had “just unplugged me in the middle of the fourth set” in his surprise 7-6 (7/2) 4-6 7-5 6-3 6-0 defeat to qualifier Ernests Gulbis.

Karen Khachenov came from two sets down to beat Frances Tiafoe in five sets, while Jiri Vesely overcame Fabio Fognini in four sets.

Former runner-up Milos Raonic made short work of finishing off his clash with Dennis Novak.

The Canadian and his Austrian opponent were forced off by darkness in the third set on Friday night but Raonic, beaten by Andy Murray in the final in 2016, secured a quick break to take the third set before dominating the fourth to win 7-6 (7/5) 4-6 7-5 6-2.

He could have a big say in the second week of the tournament.

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