A battered Rafael Nadal summoned one of his more extraordinary Grand Slam wins by surviving a five-set fight against Taylor Fritz to reach the Wimbledon semifinals.
It was American Fritz who halted Nadal’s victorious start to the season after 20 games in the Indian Wells final in March when the Spaniard was hampered by a fractured rib and it seemed like history was about to repeat itself.
Nadal appeared ready to retire at several points after undergoing treatment for a stomach issue, but instead dug in as only he can to record a 3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 7 -5, 7-6 (4) to win and keep his hopes alive The first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win all four Grand Slam titles in the same season.
Next comes a delicious round of 16 match against Nick Kyrgios, but the big question remains if Nadal’s body is really capable of surviving two more games.
On paper, Nadal’s straight-set win over Botic van de Zandschulp in the fourth round had been straightforward, but duct tape was visible on the Spaniard’s stomach.
Nadal declined to discuss the issue afterwards and he looked good against Fritz early on, breaking serve in the first game and taking a 3-1 lead.
From there, however, the American began to really threaten the second seed’s serve and a five-game streak earned him the opening set.
Nadal reacted well and broke serve to start the second set, but the pattern repeated when Fritz came back, with his opponent’s service speed dropping significantly.
A rueful look crossed the 36-year-old’s face as he spoke to the coach after struggling to serve and take the 4-3 lead, and he walked off the court on a lengthy medical time-out.
Nadal’s father Sebastian, watching from his players’ box, seemed to gesture to his son to call it a day, but he kept fighting and showing his ability to dig deep by winning the second set.
However, hopes of a miraculous recovery faded in the third set, which ended with Nadal sitting in his chair and shaking his head towards his box.
Fritz glanced at his opponent and waited for the handshake, but it didn’t come and Nadal went to the well again to take an early lead in the fourth set.
The American knew the match was a takeaway, but pocketing Nadal was a different story.
He pulled back to lead 5-4 only for Nadal to get his forehand going and win three straight games to force an unlikely decision.
Fritz was a picture of frustration, which only increased when Nadal went 4-3 up, but the Spaniard was still struggling to find dominance on serve and his opponent came right back.
Nadal took control of the crucial tie-break by winning the opening five points and although Fritz briefly threatened a comeback, he couldn’t deny the remarkable Spaniard as he claimed the win after four hours and 20 minutes.
Kyrgios, on the other hand, reached the first Grand Slam semifinal of his checkered career with a comfortable 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(5) victory over Chilean Cristian Garin.
The unseeded 27-year-old lost the first nine points on Court One but ultimately had too much firepower for Garin, who had hoped to become Chile’s first Wimbledon semi-finalist.
Kyrgios surpassed his best-ever Wimbledon run to the quarterfinals eight years ago and is the first Australian to reach a Grand Slam semifinal since Lleyton Hewitt at the 2005 US Open.
“Another amazing atmosphere,” said the world number 40. Kyrgios, the lowest-ranked semi-finalist at Wimbledon since Marat Safin (75) and Rainer Schuettler (94) in 2008.
“I never thought that I would be in the semi-finals of a Grand Slam. I thought that ship had sailed – that I might have wasted that window in my career.
“I’m really happy that I was able to come here with my team and put in a performance.”
In Friday’s other men’s semifinals, Britain’s Cameron Norrie meets reigning champion Novak Djokovic, who is seeking his seventh Wimbledon men’s singles title.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/other-sports/tennis/rafael-nadal-and-nick-kyrgios-power-through-to-set-up-wimbledon-semi-final-clash-41819612.html Rafael Nadal and Nick Kyrgios prevail to set up Wimbledon semifinals