Neither injury nor Fritz can stop Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon

WIMBLEDON, England—From their player’s box, Rafael Nadal’s father and sister said: Get off. Only for. Just walk away. Live to fight another day.

But the bold Spaniard was not willing to accept anything. And not just because he is in search of a Grand Slam on the calendar, after winning the Australian Open and the French Open. It just isn’t in it.

“They told me I needed to withdraw the match,” the record-setting 22-time Grand Slam champion, twice at Wimbledon, later revealed. “Well, I tried… It was difficult to withdraw in the middle of the match. It’s not easy, even if I had that idea for so long.”

Instead, displaying the perseverance that is his trademark, Nadal pressed on after a second-set medical timeout with American Taylor Fritz. The problem was an abdominal injury, which he had been struggling with for several days. He accepted anti-inflammatories, an analgesic, physio for the abdominal muscle, all away from prying eyes, while speculation ran that Nadal would not do it, he could not continue.

However, when he hurried back onto the court, Nadal went straight for his racket and the crowd roared their thanks.

“I wanted to finish,” he said in his post-match news conference, after a gutsy acquittal that spilled into a fifth-set tiebreak where he prevailed over the American 3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5. , 7-6 (10-4) in four hours and 20 minutes. “It is not easy to leave the tournament. It is not easy to leave Wimbledon.”

The No. 2 had his back for much of the match against a stubborn opponent who flashed a thunderous magnitude of ball strikes and high-powered serves against a weakened Nadal serve due to abdominal agony. The 26-year-old Fritz, who defeated Nadal in Indian Wells in March, went five games in a row from 1-3 to clinch the first set and was up 4-3 in the second before time-out, when Nadal broke again. the 11th seed twice and the level in one set each.

Taking advantage of some uncharacteristic mistakes by Nadal, Fritz blasted through the third frame and then engineered a break to open the fourth. That set featured five breaks of serve, to Nadal’s favour, giving way to a gripping final set and deciding tie break in which Nadal built a 5-0 lead, with Fritz stumbling twice on returns.

Nadal could not promise that he would be fit for his semi-final with Nick Kyrgios on Friday. “I don’t know. I can’t give you a clear answer because if I gave you a clear answer and something else happens tomorrow, I’ll be a liar.”

Kyrgios, who has overcome all his histrionics and tantrums, mounted his monstrous serve and power on the grass court (he is 12-2 on artificial turf in 2022) to fire Chile’s Cristian Garin in front of a raucous crowd of fans. Court 1, in a match that was closer than their 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (5) score suggested.

Rafael Nadal kept his calendar Grand Slam hopes alive with a five-set victory over American Taylor Fritz on Wednesday.

It is the first time Kyrgios has reached the semifinals at a major. “I thought that ship had sailed,” he said.

The 27-year-old Aussie had his breakout moment here in 2014, a sensational fourth-round loss to Nadal. The dream streak was ended by Canadian Milos Raonic in the quarterfinals in four sets.

He has wasted much of his sublime talent with bad-boy behavior ever since, admitting that his mental state was in shambles, with suicidal thoughts and that he had self-harmed. He seemed emotionally overwhelmed after Wednesday’s game, sitting speechless in his chair, looking around him, soaking it all in.

The last year and a half, he seriously considered scrapping it all, “He lost the love, he lost the fire, he lost the spark. So some things just changed in my life. I rediscovered that I have a lot of people who want me to play, for whom I play. I have a lot left in the tank.”

It is difficult for Kyrgios to resist goading, especially from reporters. But he absolutely did not take the bait at his post-match news conference when repeatedly asked about recent events in his country, Tuesday’s news that he was summoned to court, accused of assaulting his ex-girlfriend.

“Obviously I have a lot of thoughts, a lot of things I want to say, my point of view on it. My attorneys have informed me that I cannot say anything at this time.”

Rosie DiManno is a Toronto-based columnist who covers sports and current affairs for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno


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