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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 October 2018

Cilic stunned as Nadal and Djokovic cruise into Wimbledon third round

Croatian third seed let slip a two-set lead to lose to Argentine Pella, but there were no concerns for the two former champions

Marin Cilic let slip a two-set lead to lose to Guido Pella in the second round of Wimbledon. Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP Photo
Marin Cilic let slip a two-set lead to lose to Guido Pella in the second round of Wimbledon. Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP Photo

Marin Cilic suffered a shock defeat in the second round of Wimbledon on Thursday after Argentine Guido Pella completed a remarkable fightback to win their delayed match 3-6, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6, 7-5.

Croatian third seed, who reached last year's final, was in cruise control on Wednesday when he stormed into a two-set lead in just 55 minutes. However, after briefly returning to court, found himself trailing 4-3 on Pella's serve when the match resumed on Thursday.

Pella wrapped up the third set comfortably, then shaded an exciting fourth set that included two breaks of serve for each player with Pella taking command in the tiebreak.

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The deciding set went with serve until Pella clinched his first victory over a top-five player on his fourth match point.

Pella, who has very limited experience on grass and had lost to Cilic in three sets at the 2015 US Open in their only previous meeting, was undoubtedly helped by Wednesday’s rain interruptions.

"Yesterday he was playing so, so good, hitting the ball so hard that I couldn't do anything,” Pella said. "So the rain helped me a lot. Today I played differently, tried to be more aggressive, he started to feel uncomfortable. I tried to hit the ball hard and fight for every ball and I think in the end that's why I won."

Cilic, who won the Queen's Club tournament 10 days ago, refused to blame the rain interruption.

"I was focused on my game, I wasn't thinking of what comes next," said the Croatian. "Pella served well and came back into match, so it became a different match.

"It's a big disappointment to lose in the second round when I was playing well in last few weeks."

Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating Mikhail Kukushkin. Neill Hall / EPA
Rafael Nadal celebrates after defeating Mikhail Kukushkin. Neill Hall / EPA

There were no such problems for second seed Rafael Nadal, who came through a tricky encounter against Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 to reach the third round.

Nadal, the 2008 and 2010 champion, was tested by world No 77 Kukushkin,

was made to pay for converting just two of 13 break points in the match.

"It was very tough because he played very well," said 11-time French Open champion Nadal, who is chasing an 18th major. "On grass, the ball bounces really low so it was a good test.

"I knew it was going to be a tough match, so I went onto the court with the determination and intensity, thinking I can't make any mistakes."

Novak Djokovic outclassed Horacio Zeballos. Gerry Penny / EPA
Novak Djokovic outclassed Horacio Zeballos. Gerry Penny / EPA

Novak Djokovic is also safely through to the third round, the three-time champion easing to a 6-1, 6-2, 6-3 over Argentina's Horacio Zeballos.

The victory was the 31-year-old Serb's 60th at Wimbledon, making him just the fifth man to reach the milestone at the All England Club in the Open era.

Djokovic hit 15 aces and 31 winners in a commanding win over 33-year-old Zeballos, who was a top 40 player in 2013 but was playing at Wimbledon ranked a lowly 126.

Three-time major winner Stan Wawrinka was unable to follow up his first round defeat of sixth seed Grigor Dimitrov when he lost 7-6, 6-3, 7-6 to Italian qualifier Thomas Fabbiano.

Simona Halep came through in straight sets against Saisai  Zheng. Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP Photo
Simona Halep came through in straight sets against Saisai  Zheng. Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP Photo

In the women's draw, 2016 finalist Angelique Kerber fought back from losing the first set to defeat American qualifier Claire Liu 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.

But it was the end of the road for another former finalist, Eugenie Bouchard, who went down to Australian 17th seed Ashleigh Barty 6-4, 7-5 in a tightly-fought contest.

World No 1 - and recently-crowned French Open champion - Simona Halep came through a close first set to beat China's Saisai Zheng 7-5, 6-0 to keep her hopes alive of successive grand slam titles.

British No 1 Johanna Konta could not replicate her run to last year's semi-final, losing 6-3, 6-4 in the second round to Slovakia's world No 33 Dominika Cibulkova, who missed out on a seeding after Wimbledon decided to seed seven-time champion Serena Williams.