LONDON - Rafael Nadal looked like a fish out of water overnight against a Californian with a passion for surfing before a stirring revival clinched a five-set victory and a third-round clash with old warhorse Andre Agassi.

Invincible on Europe's dusty red clay courts where he has carved out 60 successive victories, Nadal resembled a grasscourt novice at times against 237th-ranked Robert Kendrick but roared back to win 6-7 3-6 7-6 7-5 6-4 on Centre Court.

Agassi, in his 14th and final Wimbledon, had no such trouble against Italy's Andreas Seppi, using all his experience on the slick lawns in a 6-4 7-6 6-4 victory on court one.

"That was a considerable improvement," said the 36-year-old Las Vegan who will bring the curtain down on his glittering career after this year's US Open tennis tournament.

"I was just nervous wanting to play well, it's been too long since I've just felt good and been in a place where I could enjoy what's going on out there," Agassi said. Today I was a lot closer to that."

In the women's event, champion Venus Williams was on the verge of defeat against fellow American Lisa Raymond but recovered to win 6-7 7-5 6-2 while top seed Amelie Mauresmo was a comfortable 6-4 6-2 winner over Australia's Samantha Stosur.

While Agassi's progress was untroubled, second seed Nadal's limitations on grass were laid bare as he was given a torrid time by a player competing at his third grand slam.

The net-rushing, 26-year-old American reeled off six points in a row to snatch the first set tiebreak from 1-4 down and then completely dominated the bemused Mallorcan in the second with his serve and volley tactics.

Nadal received a warning for slow play at the start of the third set but where several claycourters might have been looking for the exit door, he refused to go away.

The double French Open champion sneaked a third-set tiebreak and although he came within two points of defeat in the fourth set he pegged back a tiring Kendrick.

A double fault cost Kendrick his serve at 2-3 in the fifth and a fist-pumping Nadal pounced on his third match point to complete only his second victory from a two-set deficit.

"He was serving unbelievable," Nadal said.

"The more matches I play against big servers on this surface, the more I will improve."

Williams, who has hardly played this year because of injuries, also found herself deep in trouble when she trailed 7-6 5-2 against Raymond.

The sixth seed then unleashed a barrage of screaming winners to turn the tide and set up a third-round meeting against Serbian 26th seed Jelena Jankovic.

Fourth seed Maria Sharapova, still waiting for a sequel to her 2004 Wimbledon triumph, progresed with a powerful 6-2 6-2 victory over American Ashley Harkleroad.

The 19-year-old Russian was given a rare excursion outside Wimbledon's main show courts but suffered few alarms on court two, which has claimed the scalps of many champions over the years.

"There's a lot more going on on the other courts, you hear a lot more things," Sharapova said.

"But I think it's good, the fans can get to see you close up and personal."

A linesman fainted during Nadal's victory as the temperature rose into the high 20s Celsius, and several seeds also felt the heat.

Patty Schynder became the highest women's casualty so far when the eighth seed was beaten 4-6 6-1 6-4 by France's Severine Bremond while men's 11th seed Tommy Robredo of Spain fell 7-6 6-2 6-4 to rising Serb teenager Novak Djokovic.

Former French Open champion Gaston Gaudio, the 16th seed, is also packing his bags after losing 6-4 6-2 6-3 to Irakli Labadze of Georgia.

France's Sebastian Grosjean and Australian Open runner-up Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus survived and will meet in round three.

- REUTERS