Nadal defies injury to reach final four at Wimbledon
Rafael Nadal battled through injury on the way to overcoming Taylor Fritz in a quarterfinal marathon at Wimbledon as the Spaniard maintained his hopes of a 23rd Grand Slam title.
Chasing a Calendar Grand Slam after triumphs at the Australian and French Opens already this year, Nadal’s familiar injury woes had appeared to catch up with him as the 36-year-old was hindered by an abdominal issue throughout the contest with the impressive Fritz on an enthralled Centre Court on Wednesday.
But the Spaniard dug deep to keep himself in the contest before winning a fifth-set tie-break to take the match 3-6 7-5 3-6 7-5 7-6 (10-4) in a contest which spanned the better part of four-and-half hours.
Nadal will now meet Nick Kyrgios in the last four on Friday, after the Australian maverick reached his first-ever Grand Slam semifinal by seeing off Chile’s Cristian Garin in straight sets in their meeting earlier in the day.
Even in a career as brilliant as Nadal’s, this was surely a victory to rank among the gutsiest he has ever pulled off as he somehow found the reserves against the up-and-coming Fritz, who was making his first appearance at this stage of a Grand Slam.
After defying a foot injury en route to the French Open title last month, Nadal’s dreams of a third Wimbledon title seem destined to be hampered by a different ailment as this time he battled an abdominal issue.
The Spaniard had required medical treatment off court midway through the second set against Fritz, having already dropped the opening set to the 24-year-old.
But after returning to court, Nadal bounced back and leveled the match at one set apiece.
Fritz, who had beaten Nadal to capture a first ATP Masters title in Indian Wells back in March, was more commanding in the third set as he broke the Nadal serve twice.
However, the veteran dragged himself back into contention to win a topsy-turvy set four in front of a feverish crowd at SW19.
Into the fifth set and it seemed two-time Wimbledon champion Nadal was rejuvenated again.
Fritz saved three points in an epic game seven before Nadal snapped his rival’s resistance to claim a break of serve which seemed destined to determine the outcome of the match.
But remarkably, the ice-cool Fritz broke back at the first opportunity to level the set at 4-4.
Both players held their nerve to take the set to 6-6, sending them to a 10-point tie-break – a format which was only introduced at Wimbledon this year.
It was Nadal who prevailed 10-4 as the number two seed continues to eye a first title at the All England Club since 2010.
Nadal acknowledged after the match that he was unsure whether he would even be able to finish it, having been implored by his family and team in the stands to considering quitting.
“For a lot of moments I was thinking, ‘Maybe I will not be able to finish the match,’” said Nadal.
There will be inevitable concerns that the nature of his injury could yet hinder his chances as he prepares for a meeting with Kyrgios, who is on a career-best run at a Grand Slam and in formidable form.
Nadal said he would undergo tests on Thursday but could give no guarantees.
“I don’t know [if I can play on Friday]. Honestly, I can’t give you a clear answer. I don’t know exactly what I have,” said the Spaniard.
“It’s clear something's not right. I’m obviously worried.”
Even should Nadal beat Kyrgios, elsewhere in the draw lurks the formidable presence of six-time Wimbledon winner and generational rival Novak Djokovic, who emerged from his own five-set quarterfinal against Italian youngster Jannik Sinner on Tuesday.
But those will at least be questions for another day for Nadal as he once again defied his advancing years to savor a superbly resilient victory.