Rafael Nadal needed the tiebreaker in the fifth set to defeat Taylor Fritz to reach the ace square at Wimbledon.
The Spaniard won 3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (10-4) to face Australia’s Nick Kyrgios in the next round.
Nadal, the 36-year-old Spaniard, suffers from abdominal pains. He is a double winner (2008 and 2010) on London grass. He had not played there since Roger Federer eliminated him in the semifinals in 2019.
“The body, in general, is fine, but I have something on my abs. I had to find a way to serve a little differently.
I thought several times that I would not finish the game. But the public, with the energy they sent me, allowed me to go to the end,” he explained.
“I hope I’ll be ready to play this game. Nick is a great player on all surfaces, but especially on grass.
He’s having a great season on this surface, and I’ll have to be 100% to have my chances,” Nadal said.
Facing Fritz, the match was not of immense quality of play but of rare dramatic intensity. It was until the super break where Nadal finally played great tennis to finish on a winning forehand.
Injured and very weakened, Nadal seemed on the verge of collapse in the second set. Unable to bend, it could hardly serve or bend down on the cushioning.
Besides, gritting his teeth, he managed the break to escape 3-0. But Fritz came back to 3-3, and at the change of sides, Nadal made signs of denial to his clan by making grimaces of pain.
He then received treatment in the locker room and against all odds. He held on until he managed the decisive break allowing him to equalize at one set everywhere (7-5).
Fritz regained the lead by winning the third set quietly while Nadal continued to suffer.
The beginning of the fourth set looked like an ordeal. There he could hardly play his backhands other than sliced.
He managed to break away 4-2. But when Fritz lined up a three-game series to lead 5-4, Nadal’s chances seemed to be extinguished.
And yet, it was he who managed the break to lead 6-5 before pushing the game into a decisive set.
The two players exchanged a service game in the middle of the fifth set to get to the super break. Nadal quickly took the lead 5-0 and concluded on his second ball of the match.
Fritz may have felt like he was reliving the third round of the 2021 Australian Open. There he lost in five sets to Novak Djokovic, who also injured his abdominals. The Serbians won the tournament a few days later.
Earlier in the day, Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, ranked 40th in the world. Also, advanced to his first Grand Slam semifinal by defeating Chile’s Cristian Garin (43rd) 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (5).
“I never imagined I would be in the semifinals of a Grand Slam tournament. I thought I had let the train pass, that I had missed the opening… ” said the 27-year-old Australian.
He had previously played two quarter-finals of Majors. It includes one at Wimbledon in 2014 for his first participation.
“I felt like I was playing on my heels because Garin is a damn good player.
I’ve been lucky on a few breaking balls. But I’m taking. And I’m going to prepare for the next game,” he added, minutes after falling with his arms on the grass of Court No. 1 after the match ball.
To help him prepare for this historical half, he has, as usual, no coach.
“I don’t have a coach because I wouldn’t want to put that weight on anyone’s shoulders. No one knows my tennis as well as I do,” he explained.
Kyrgios becomes the first Australian to enter the last square of Wimbledon since Lleyton Hewitt in 2005.
He is also the lowest-ranked player to play in the semis since the 2008 edition. Marat Safin was 75th in the world, and Rainer Schuettler, 94th, managed to do so.
On Wednesday, Garin won the first nine points of the first set to lead 2-0 and 15/0 on Kyrgios’ serve.
In the second set, Kyrgios made the break to lead 3-1 and then controlled his advantage to the end.
The third set was much more hooked, with each player holding his stake until Kyrgios broke the tie.
- People Also Read: Rafael Nadal vs Taylor Fritz: Time, Prediction, Where to Watch