London: World number one Rafael Nadal had to fight his way through yet another five-set marathon on Saturday, finally wearing down German Philipp Petzschner 6-4 4-6 6-7 6-2 6-3 to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon.
Nadal, taken the distance by Dutchman Robin Haase in the previous round, had never before had to win two five-set matches to reach the last 16 in a grand slam before.
The Spaniard, who could not defend his Wimbledon title last year because of a knee injury, was not moving freely. He kept having to call for the trainer and looked in discomfort toward the end of the epic encounter.
He moved one step closer to another dream final against Roger Federer -- but it was a draining match to take him into the second week.
"I will be fine," Nadal said. It is not a big problem for me. It has been a long season," he said.
But he was full of admiration for his dogged opponent.
"The match was very difficult for me. The serve of Philipp was unbelievable," he said.
Nadal swiftly broke the German`s serve in the first set and maintained his advantage to take it comfortably 6-4.
Nadal`s serve suddenly crumbled in the 10th game of the second set with a missed smash paving the way for the number 33 seed to level the match.
The third set was on a knife edge until Petzschner saved a break point in the 11th game.
Then in a thrilling tiebreak, Nadal saved two set points before the German took it with a service winner.
Despite twice calling the trainer, Nadal was still able to race to 4-1 lead in the fourth set. He then broke the German a second time when Petzschner lost the set tamely on a double fault.
With the match finely poised and both players struggling with niggling injuries, a clearly exhausted and dejected Petzschner called the trainer.
At the start of the deciding set he missed a sitter of a volley with the court wide open. It sunk his morale and his shoulders visibly sagged.
Nadal was enraged at 2-2 when the umpire warned him about coaching from the stands by his uncle Toni, waving an admonishing figure in fury at Cedric Mourier.
The Spaniard was rewarded for his grinding effort, breaking to take a 5-3 lead in the decider before serving out.
Next up for Nadal is the unseeded Frenchman Paul-Henri Mathieu.