December 3, 2023

Wimbledon, England – After experiencing abdominal pain, unable to practice his usual tennis style, Rafael Nadal worried he might need to stop playing in the Wimbledon quarter-final against Taylor Fritz.

In the central courtroom, Nadal’s father was waving his arms, signaling the 22-time Grand Slam champion to resign. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the child did not listen. Nadal stayed there, modified his serve movement and strategy – and found a way to win.

With plenty of raucous crowds and standing after Nadal’s best blows, he twice erased a one-set deficit against 11th seed Fritz and came out with a 3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (10-4) win by reaching the His eighth semi-final at the All England Stadium.

“For a few moments, I was thinking, ‘Maybe I won’t be able to finish the match,'” Nadal said.

He reached the 38th semifinals of his career by denying his first appearance to Fritz, a 24-year-old American who defeated Nadal in the final in Indian Wells, California, in March. That ended a 20-game winning streak for Nadal, who was upset that day with a painful rib injury.

This time, the problem was a muscle in his abdomen, which had some sports tape, as was also the case in Nadal’s fourth round match, when he refused to discuss the matter. Nadal left the field with a coach for a treatment time-out while leading 4-3 in the second set. Fritz moved around the baseline pending a resumption of work.

When that happened, Nadal was clearly compromised. It was hard not to think: Is he giving up? Nadal admitted that was what came to his mind. Perhaps it was Fritz, too, because his level of play slipped too hard for extensions.

He pretty much delivered the second set of what would become a 4 hour, 21 minute competition under a sky of rocky clouds. After Fritz took the third set, his big serve was broken three times in the next set.

Nadal occasionally watched a ball of Fritz’s orange racket fly past him. Nadal couldn’t move the way he normally does. His trademark grunts “Uhhhh!” It was rare. It didn’t generate the usual zip to send, which dropped from a height of 120 mph to just over 100 mph. He sought to end the trade-offs with a quick-hit forehand or a falling shot—sometimes successfully, often not.

“A tough afternoon. “It’s not an easy match at all,” Nadal said. “In the belly, something is not going well.”

However, he finally called out his best, snatching a 5-0 lead in the closing tiebreak – a first-to-10 format, a 2-point win from 6 – all in the fifth set is new to Wimbledon this year – and then five from the last Six points. By doing so, Nadal boosted his undefeated Grand Slam match record in 2022 to 19-0 as he seeks to add a trophy at Wimbledon to his victories at the Australian Open in January, and then the French Open in June. For all he has accomplished, the 36-year-old Spaniard has yet to win his first three Slam titles this season.

Nadal will meet Australian Nick Kyrgios, 27, who will make his first Grand Slam semi-final match with a 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (5) victory over Chilean Christian Garin.

The other men’s semi-final will be top seed Novak Djokovic against 9th seed Kam Nouri.

The women’s semi-final will be 2019 champion Simona Halep against 17th seed Elena Rybakina, and No. 3 Anas Jabeur against unseeded Tatiana Maria. Halep advanced by eliminating the 20th-seeded United States, Amanda Anisimova, 6-2, 6-4, and Rybakina returned to defeat Agla Tomljanovic 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.

When asked to look forward to facing Kyrgios, Nadal began with this ominous phrase: “I hope I’m ready to play.”

He continued, “I have to be 100% to have the chances and that’s what I will try to do.”

Nadal, who won Wimbledon in 2008 and 2010, beats Kyrgios 6-3 head-to-head. They are 1-everyone at Wimbledon. In 2014, Kyrgios, then 19 and 144th, declared himself to the world by winning; In 2019, Nadal took the rematch after Kyrgios had spent the previous night at a local bar in the early hours of the morning.

“I feel like this is going to be kind of mouth-watering for everyone around the world,” Kyrgios, who was never afraid of a little exaggeration, said of facing Nadal again. “This is probably the most watched match of all time.”

Give Kyrgios credit for his honesty on the matter, at least: he didn’t even think that this day would ever come. Kyrgios became the first unranked and lowest-ranked man to reach the quarter-finals at the All England Club since 2008 by playing what, for him, is a restricted and effective brand of tennis against Garin.

“I thought my ship had set sail,” Kyrgios said. “Obviously I haven’t done great things so early in my career and I might miss that little window.”

Kyrgios, ranked 40, gets more attention for his demeanor on and off the court than his skills with a racket in hand. His match against unranked Garen, 26, of Chile, came a day after police in Canberra, Australia, said Kyrgios was due to appear in court next month to face allegations of joint assault stemming from something that happened in December.

“I have a lot of ideas, a lot of things I want to say, kind of on my part about it,” Kyrgios said in his post-match press conference. “I have obviously been advised by the lawyers that I cannot say anything at this time.”

After winning the first round at Wimbledon last week, Kyrgios was fined $10,000 for spitting in the direction of a harassing spectator. His third-round victory over No. 4 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas was as controversial as possible, and Kyrgios was fined another $4,000 for audible indecency; After that, Tsitsipas described him as a “bully” and “evil”.

It is also worth noting how well Kyrgios plays. His serve, in particular, is among the best in the game, regularly topping 130mph, firing 17 aces against Garin while only being broken once – in the first match, in love.

His big forehands are great too, but little else is traditional for Kyrgios. One example: “I don’t have a coach,” Kyrgios said with a smile. “I will never place this burden on anyone.”

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