Taylor Fritz, the 6-foot-5 self-confident American, did his best to bury an injured legend here on Wednesday, but Rafael Nadal, 36, was not left behind, against the advice of his concerned father. , and prevailed over five swinging sets to reach her eighth Wimbledon semi-final. He is one win against Nick Kyrgios from reaching the final, possibly for the 60th time against Novak Djokovic, and a chance to win his third Grand Slam title on the tour. What year has he had?
Fritz almost had it in the fourth but could not finish it off and Nadal made him pay by winning 3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (4) in 4h 20min, the fourth longest match of the championship
“I really enjoy playing these types of matches,” Nadal said on court. “It was a tough afternoon against a great player. It was not easy at all, I am very happy to be in the semi-finals. Abdominal not doing well. I had to find a way to serve it a little differently. For a moment I thought I wouldn’t be able to finish the game.”
Of Kyrgios’ semi-final he said: “I hope to be ready to play it. Nick is a great player, especially here on grass. He has had a great season on grass courts. I need to be 100%”.
Relying on his long, strong right arm to enter the fray with two aces – 129 mph wide and 132 mph down the middle to go with 58 free points that helped him enter the quarterfinals – Fritz still found himself with a collapse within the first quarter of an hour. Nadal’s first ace, 120 mph down the middle, added to his relatively modest tournament total of 28, though he was seriously accelerating his forehand.
However, when Fritz broke in game six to get serve back, there was a palpable mood swing. Fritz, 24, came into the championship in fine form, winning Eastbourne. He too had fresh memories of defeating Nadal when they last met, in the Indian Wells final. But memories are for scrapbooks. And each of them had something different to read into his past.
The Spaniard, who many thought would never win another Wimbledon title after the last one 12 years ago, had the incentive to reach an eighth semi-final here (and 38th in all majors), not to mention the tantalizing prospect of evening the schedule. by Rod Laver. 1969 grand slam. Those ambitions were dashed in game eight, when a double fault put him down 3-5, and Fritz punished him with two more aces to take the set. Nobody saw it coming.
Nadal quickly regrouped, taking advantage of Fritz’s indiscipline to go up 2-0 in the second. But the Californian lived up to his pre-match assertion that he would attack without reservation, forcing a couple of lazy errors from Nadal to return to parity.
This was now an impossibly difficult match to read, as neither player hit a convincing pace. It would stay that way almost all the way to the end.
Nadal worked hard to keep it 4-3 before leaving the court to attend to the abdominal injury he refuses to talk about or the chronic pain in his left foot, or both. His father, Sebastian, waved frantically from the player’s box for him to leave. Nadal ignored him.
Fritz, who hit 136 mph in this tournament, met his comeback with a couple of sub-100 mph attempts, but Nadal couldn’t do much even with those lollipops. Something still wasn’t right.
A hush fell over center court as Nadal went through the motions, struggling to serve at over 100 mph. Then, out of nowhere, he conjured a break of exquisite subtlety to level one set each. Nobody saw it coming.
However, their mini-revival hit an awkward bump when a double fault led to an abandoned service game early in the third, and we were back in the land of serial uncertainty. Fritz held onto his serve a little more easily than Nadal held on to his. It was no surprise when the San Diego man forced another loose shot from Nadal to go up 2-1 after 2 hours and 10 minutes.
Then one or two more twists. Nadal broke early in the fourth set and held the 4-2 lead, but hit a forehand to return the lead at 4-4. Having squandered a break point that would have given him an advantage, Nadal served to hold on to the championship after almost three hours of restless battling at 4-5, sealing it with his fourth ace of the match.
Smelling blood, he conjured a break point on Fritz’s serve and forced a long final backhand from his desperate foe. A fifth ace handed him three set points; a withering forehand took them to a deciding set.
Fritz held love, Nadal less convincingly, and the fifth went on serve until the pivotal seventh game. After a long back-and-forth struggle, the Spanish maestro pounced on Fritz’s second-slowest serve of the match, then found a drop shot from the sky to break the deadlock.
But he trashed it with his own serve, Fritz held and Nadal equalized, putting them into the 10-point tie break after 4h 8m. He led 5-1 in the first change of ends, prevailed 7-3 in a match-long 25-shot exchange, and closed the show with a routine forehand to the corner.