The second seeded-Spaniard was not at his sparkling best but he proved too strong for big-serving American Mardy Fish, winning 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 in two hours and 18 minutes on Centre Court.
In the process, he offered further evidence of his growing confidence on grass even though the soft surface, due to days of wet weather, is hardly conducive to his baseline game.
“I felt very good today,” he said afterwards. “I returned very well. There was just one moment in the third set when my serve went off. But that’s normal.
“I need to improve on that a little bit. Need to improve the second serve. But the rest, especially playing from the baseline was very, very good. I am feeling good.”
Marat Safin admitted he does not even know what his next opponent looks like after booking his place in the second round at Wimbledon.
Safin will face qualifier Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan — who beat Britain’s Lee Childs — after defeating South Africa’s Rik De Voest 7-6 (7-5) 6-4 7-5, and would likely then face champion Roger Federer.
“I don’t even know how Qureshi looks unfortunately,” said the 27-year-old Russian. “I guess he’s playing pretty good tennis if he qualified and won a three-set match today.
“I’m just missing a little bit of confidence. Everything is down to confidence. Even if you’re playing bad, you win a couple of matches, then you might have a surprise and start to play well and you start to make some results.
“I’ll play the next match, and I face Federer in the third round. That’s my goal, and then see how it’s going to go.
“I have no confidence at the moment because I’m not winning a lot of matches lately, because I’ve been struggling for the past couple of months, more than a couple of months.
“So how are you going to build up the confidence? The confidence comes with winning matches and playing a lot of semi-finals, finals. The last time I played the semi-final was in March, so that’s where my confidence has left me.”
Meanwhile, Tim Henman survived one of the most epic matches of his career.
With the famous hill which bears his name packed and with the Centre Court crowd roaring him on he carried on from where he left off the night before, when the light failed at 5-5 in the final set, to finish off Carlos Moya 6-3 1-6 5-7 6-2 13-11.
Said Henman afterwards: “This place is so special to me. I’ve had so many experiences here over the years. I always believe that good things are going to happen.
“I came here when I was six to watch for the first time. I was running around the outside courts watching every match. I went on Centre Court. I remember those feelings.
“Now I’m at the centre of it all. There’s this hill where everyone watches from and it’s Henman Hill. It’s sort of tough to fathom. It’s been my dream. And today was another time when I was out there fulfilling my dreams.”
The performance of the day yesterday however came from Spain’s Juan Carlos Ferrero, who came back from two sets down to beat Jan Hajek of the Czech Republic.
Ferrero, the former French Open champion and 20th seed, eventually won 6-7 (5-7) 4-6 6-3 6-2 7-5 on court 14 in a match held over from Monday due to the rain delays.
France’s Richard Gasquet had a far easier time, the 12th seed beating another Czech player, Bohdan Ulihrach, 6-3 6-4 6-4, while ninth seed James Blake enjoyed a similarly easy success against Russian Igor Andreev.
Other seeds to progress were Jonas Bjorkman, Tommy Robredo, former finalist David Nalbandian, Dmitry Tursunov, Ivan Ljubicic and Tomas Berdych, but 31st seed Dominik Hrbaty was beaten in straight sets by Italian Andreas Seppi.
Argentina’s Juan Martin Del Potro claimed the dubious privilege of facing defending champion Roger Federer in the next round after completing a rain-delayed four-set victory over Italian veteran Davide Sanguinetti.
Ecuador’s Nicolas Lapentti, scheduled to face Andy Murray before the British number one’s late withdrawal through injury, needed five sets to see off American Kevin Kim, while Queen’s Club finalist Nicolas Mahut overcame fellow Frenchman Arnaud Clement in four sets.