Nadal Survives Tense Third Set To Reach Wimbledon QFs
Rafael Nadal's adjustment period is over at Wimbledon — if there was any doubt. For the second match running, he produced some of his best tennis to advance in straight sets against a seeded opponent, fending off a late comeback attempt.
The Spaniard closed Monday's play on Centre Court with a 6-4, 6-2, 7-6(6) victory against 21st seed Botic van de Zandschulp, securing his spot in the quarter-finals for his third consecutive appearance at SW19. After reaching his eighth quarter-final at The Championships, he will look to reach his third semi-final in as many tries when he takes on 11th-seeded American Taylor Fritz on Wednesday.
"I continued in a positive way," he said. "I think, until the end [when] I played a bad game at 5-3, [it] had been a very positive match against a difficult opponent. Botic has been improving unbelievably in the last year, so huge congratulations to him this amazing improvement.
"In a personal way, after all the things that happened the last couple of months, to be able to be in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon after three years without playing here [since 2019], it's amazing for me, so [I'm] very, very happy."
This contest was more nervy than his third-round win against Lorenzo Sonego, who broke for the first time late in the third set before Nadal snapped back to claim a 6-4 final set.
Against van de Zandschulp, the Spaniard failed to serve out the match at 5-3 and led 6/3 in the third-set tie-break before claiming victory on his fourth match point when an overhead flew just wide. Despite the delay, Nadal finished off the match in a swift two hours, 21 minutes, before fading daylight could prompt the closure of the Centre Court roof.
Nadal brushed off two lost return games in the final set — his only blemishes in the match — with a dominant performance in the tie-break.The 36-year-old earned a crucial mini-break midway through the tie-break by moving van de Zandschulp all around the backcourt in a lengthy, lung-busting rally, with the Dutchman missing a drop shot as his legs began to fade.
Earlier in the set, the Spaniard played one of his best games of the match to break for 4-2, hitting two cross-court backhand passes to edge in front. After tracking down a tough volley to fire the first, an incredulous van de Zandschulp gazed back in disbelief. The second relied more on touch than power and resulted in a lawnmower celebration from the Spaniard, who repeatedly pumped his fist.
Nadal is bidding to complete the third leg of the Grand Slam — winning all four majors in the same season — by winning his third Wimbledon crown and a record-extending 23rd major men's singles title. He has never before entered The Championships with the Australian Open and Roland Garros trophies in tow.
He next faces Fritz, who was a 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 winner against Jason Kubler earlier on Monday. As Nadal mentioned in his on-court interview, the American beat him in the Indian Wells final in March. The 24-year-old is enjoying a breakout year, having reached a career-high Pepperstone ATP Ranking of No. 13 after his triumph at the BNP Paribas Open in his native southern California.
"He's playing well, he's having an amazing year, winning his first Masters 1000 — against me, by the way, in the final," Nadal said, drawing laughs. "It's going to be a tough match, but we are in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon so what can I expect?"