Wimbledon, England. It was Wednesday night on Center Court and Rafael Nadal returned to the Wimbledon semi-finals, proving once again that his pain threshold and ability to improvise under pressure are far beyond the norm.
Taylor Fritz sat in his chair by the court, thinking about what could have been and feeling that no defeat had ever hurt like this because he wanted to cry.
“I never felt like I could cry after a loss,” said Fritz, the 24-year-old rising American star who won’t rise higher in the All England Club this year after Nadal’s 3-6, 7-5 victory. , 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (10-4).
The quarter-final thriller ran for 4 hours and 21 minutes and could have gone on much longer if not for this year’s new Wimbledon rule that requires a first-to-10 tiebreak to be played at 6-6. fifth set. The famous English footballer David Beckham, who was fascinated watching what was happening from the royal box, might have preferred a penalty.
Fritz, a thunderous server that can also land strikes, upset Nadal to win the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California in March, Fritz played with an ankle injury and Nadal played with a stress fracture of the chest.
On Wednesday, Fritz was on the cusp of a bigger breakthrough and ended up with the same number of points as Nadal (168 each). But with all the strength and fuss of Fritz, he could not win the most important points; he was unable to capitalize on Nadal’s stomach injury or a two-set-to-one advantage. He quickly lost control of the decisive tiebreaker, trailing 0–5 as Nadal used throws and stealth that made him a 22-time Grand Slam singles champion.
“Rafa did what Rafa does: he was smart,” said Paul Annacone, one of Fritz’s trainers. “He figures out what he got that day and he never makes it easy for an opponent. That’s why he’s the most experienced guy in the history of tennis so far.”
Nadal, still racing Grand Slams at 36, face to face with Australian Nick Kyrgiosanother big server with a much more volatile personality, on Friday for a spot in the men’s singles final.
In the other Friday semi-final No. At number 1, Novak Djokovic, the three-time reigning Wimbledon champion, will face number one. 9th, Cameron Norrie, the last British player left in singles.
The question is whether Nadal, who finished second, will be healthy enough to play. Nadal said he was close to finishing the match after aggravating a lower abdominal injury midway through the first set. But even without a full pitch, and even when his father and sister urged him to retire from the stands, Nadal, as often happens, found the solutions needed to win, even if he did not look much more optimistic than Fritz when he arrived at the press conference in an undertone.
“Obviously there is nothing new today,” he said of the injury. “I had these feelings for a couple of days. Without a doubt, today was the worst day. There is a significant increase in pain and restrictions. That’s all. I managed to win that match. Let’s see what happens tomorrow.”
He said he would undergo further tests on Thursday before deciding whether he would return to center court to face Kyrgios, who upset him on the same patch of grass in their first meeting in 2014 in the round of 16. Nadal has won six of his eight matches. other matches, including a tense second round bout at Wimbledon in 2019, in which Kyrgios deliberately landed full passing blows to Nadal’s body and felt no need to apologize.
“Nick is a great player on all surfaces, but especially here on grass,” said Nadal. “He has a great season on grass. It will be a big challenge. I need to give 100 percent to keep the chances, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Nadal is clearly tired of talking about his body, tired of fighting injuries that keep coming during his intermittently sensational seasons.
“If not one, then another,” Nadal said.
For the first time in his long career, Nadal won the first two Grand Slams of the season, Australian as well as French Open. No man has won a Grand Slam, having won all four majors in the same year since Rod Laver in 1969, but Nadal kept his bid, with Laver, 83, watching from the royal box.
Nadal dealt with this by settling for a much slower serve, which Fritz said gave him more trouble than Nadal’s serve at full power. Nadal cautiously walked off the court for a 4-3 medical timeout in the second set and said he received anti-inflammatory drugs and treatment from a physiotherapist.
“For the entire first set, all of the second and most of the third, the problem was not only the serve, but if I served, I felt pain until the end of the point and could not play properly,” he said. explained. “It took a while to figure it out.” His pitching average on Wednesday was 107 mph for the first inning and 94 mph for the second inning, compared to 115 and 100 in the previous round. But once he adjusted, he said he no longer had long-term discomfort during exchanges and that he felt relaxed on ground punches.
“For many moments, I thought that maybe I won’t be able to finish the match,” he said, addressing the spectators on Center Court. “But, I don’t know, judgment, energy, whatever, so yeah, thanks for that.”
Nadal has not always been a crowd favorite at Wimbledon, where longtime rival Roger Federer has long enjoyed the role. But Federer, 40, is not playing here this year.and Nadal, returning for the first time since 2019, is hearing plenty of positive feedback as he tries to win Wimbledon for a third time.
On Wednesday, he pressed, tied the score in two sets, and then in the fifth he made a break and led 4-3, but lost his own serve in the next game. But as the match went on for over four hours, he regained control and ended the win with a classic winning right hand from behind the backline, finishing with a bolo whip behind his left ear.
Wimbledon was full of surprises. Before it started, the All England Club Russian and Belarusian players banned because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The top three players – Matteo Berrettini, Marin Cilic and Roberto Bautista Agut – withdrew after contracting the coronavirus.
But Nadal and Djokovic are still vying with each other, as is Simona Halep, the former world number one. 1 who won Wimbledon in 2019 and is in resurgent form with the help of his new coach Patrick Mouratoglou. On Thursday, Romanian Halep will play Elena Rybakina from Kazakhstan in the semi-finals. Ons Jaber, number 1. 3 seeds from Tunisia, will play Tatiana Maria, the German took second place. 103, who was the biggest surprise of the women’s tournament.
Last year, Fritz came close to surprising Djokovic before losing in five sets in the third round of the Australian Open in a match in which, oddly enough, Djokovic suffered a stomach injury. The scenario against Nadal must have sounded painfully familiar to him and he said his biggest regret was not pushing Nadal harder when Nadal served three times to stay in the match.
“In the end, he was just really, really, really good,” Fritz said. At some points in the match, I felt that maybe I just needed to come up with more, do more. I left a lot to his discretion, and he fulfilled.