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WIMBLEDON, UK – Rafael Nadal needed the tiebreak in the fifth set to defeat Taylor Fritz and reach the semifinals at Wimbledon.
The Spaniard won 3: 6, 7: 5, 3: 6, 7: 5 and 7: 6 (10: 4) to meet Australian Nick Kyrgios in the next round.
The 36-year-old Spaniard, a double winner (2008 and 2010) on the London turf, was suffering “at the level of the abs” and had not played there since being eliminated in the semi-finals by Roger Federer in 2019.
“The body is fine in general, but I have something in my abs. I had to find a way to serve a little differently. I thought several times that I wasn’t going to finish the game, but the public allowed me to go to the end with the energy they sent me,” he explained.
“I hope that I will 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 really need to give 100% to have my chances,” said Nadal.
Against Fritz the match was not of immense quality but of rare dramatic intensity, up to the super break in which Nadal finally played great tennis to end with a winning forehand.
Injured and very weak, the Spaniard seemed on the verge of collapse in the second set. Unable to flex, he could barely serve or crouch on drop shots.
Despite that, he gnashed his teeth and made it 3-0. But Fritz came back to 3: 3 and when changing sides Nadal made signs of denial to his clan with painful grimaces.
He was then treated in the dressing room and, against all odds, held out until the decisive break, which allowed him to equalize with one set everywhere (7-5).
Fritz regained the lead by winning the third set fairly calmly while Nadal continued to suffer.
The beginning of the fourth set looked like an ordeal, where he could play his backhand little other than slice. He did manage to pull away 4-2, but when Fritz mounted a three-game streak to lead 5-4, Nadal’s chances seemed wiped out.
And yet it was he who managed the break to take a 6-5 lead before pushing the game into a deciding set.
Midway through the fifth set, the two players traded service to get to the super break: Nadal quickly took a 5-0 lead and finished with his second match point.
Fritz may have felt like reliving the third round of the 2021 Australian Open when he lost in five sets to Novak Djokovic, who also injured his stomach. A few days later, the Serb won the tournament.
Earlier in the day, Australia’s Nick Kyrgios, 40th in the world, qualified for his first Grand Slam semifinal by beating Chile’s Cristian Garin (43rd) 6-4 6-3 7-6 (5). .
“I never thought I would be in the semifinals of a Grand Slam tournament. I thought I let the train pass, that I missed the opening…” said the 27-year-old Australian, who previously won two major had played quarter-finals, including one at Wimbledon in 2014 for his debut appearance.
“I felt like I was playing on my heels because Garin is a damn good player. I got lucky on a couple of break points, but I’m taking it and getting ready for the next match,” he added, minutes after falling on the grass of Court No. 1 with his arms crossed after the match point. As usual, to help him prepare for this historic half, he has no coach.
“I don’t have a coach because I don’t want to put that burden on anyone. Nobody knows my tennis as well as I do,” he explained.
Kyrgios is the first Australian to finish in the last four at Wimbledon since Lleyton Hewitt in 2005.
He is also the lowest-ranked player to have played the semifinals since the 2008 edition when Marat Safin, 75th in the world, and Rainer Schuettler, 94th, both got there.
On Wednesday, Garin won the first nine points of the opening set, leading 2-0 and 15-0 on Kyrgios’ serve.
But the Aussie then got into the match, taking service to come back at 3-3 before claiming a break again in the final game of the set to win it.
In the second set, Kyrgios broke to take a 3-1 lead and then controlled his advantage to the end.
The third set was much more tense, with each player holding their faceoffs until the tiebreak was won by Kyrgios.