RAFA Nadal remained on course to create tennis history as he reached his seventh quarter-final at Wimbledon.
A 6-2 6-2 6-2 victory in 1hr.45min over Centre Court debutant Joao Sousa was hailed by former champion Boris Becker as “vintage Nadal on grass”.
Golden oldie Nadal aims to become the first player aged over 30 to win five Grand Slams.
The two-time King of London SW19 stands on four with Roger Federer, Rod Laver and Ken Rosewell – some company – on four.
He is also looking for back-to-back French Open-Wimbledon titles for the third time.
And 33-year-old looking for his 19th Grand Slam warned his rivals he is feeling “positive” and “comfortable”.
He said: “My body is holding up well and I’m playing good tennis. I feel comfortable. Have positive feelings.
“Vintage Nadal on grass? I did well last year (reached the semi-finals)
“It was quite a solid match. Serve didn’t work as well as the rest of my game but I feel positive. I’m happy. Please to be in the quarter-finals again.”
Nadal looked imperious as he raced into a 4-0 lead in the opening set, breaking his hapless Portuguese opponent twice in this clash of two of the record nine thirtysomethings in the last 16 of the men’s singles in the open era
Sousa was hoping to be the first Portuguese to reach the last eight of a Grand Slam – man or woman – but Nadal was in an unrelenting mood.
The unseeded Sousa got a couple of games back by way of consolation but he gifted the final point of the set to the third seed.
Nadal was out of position on the nearside but Sousa, instead of selecting a shot to the open court on the far, drove the ball straight back at the Spaniard who picked off the winner.
It had taken just 30 minutes. Perhaps Sousa was still feeling the effects of his marathon, roller-coaster five-set victory over British No.3 Dan Evans in the previous round, but he looked flat.
Compatriot Jose Mourinho was there as Sousa stunned former finalist Marin Cilic, the 13th seed, in the second round after beating British wild card Paul Jubb.
And the Portuguese could have used a motivational speech from the former Manchester United, Chelsea and Real Madrid football manager as Nadal maintained his grip in the second.
The Spaniard broke Sousa in the opening game of the second game. And, although he gamely held on to his serve, Nadal looked in no mood to relax his hold as he opened up a 5-2 lead with another break.
Victory would take Nadal above five-time champion Bjorn Borg in the number of Wimbledon wins. His 52nd to put him in eighth overall in the Open era.
And he maintained a ruthless streak and got his nose in front in the third by breaking Sousa in the third game of it.
There seemed nothing the Portuguese could do. Perhaps swapping his back-to-front white baseball cap to wearing it the right well? Well nothing else he tried seemed to work. He wasn’t making too many errors and was playing okay but Nadal seemed at the top of his game.
Was it the grudge win over Nick Kyrgios in the second round that has charged up Nadal’s campaign so much. Whatever he is going to take some stopping.