Nadal Fights Off Querrey, Federer SF Next
Sam Querrey's biggest weapon – his serve – had been the focal point in the lead up to his Wimbledon quarter-final against Rafael Nadal. The American had been broken only once in 72 service games this fortnight.
But reality is better than theory, and on the court Wednesday, it was the Spaniard's serve that stole the attention and helped him set up his 40th matchup and first at Wimbledon since their legendary 2008 final, with longtime rival Roger Federer.
Nadal fought off Querrey, who wasn't intimidated by the occasion, 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 to reach his seventh Wimbledon semi-final and 32nd overall at the Grand Slam level, best for third in the Open Era.
“[It's] a great feeling to be back in the semi-finals, be able to be playing at this level of tennis... [I'm] very happy the way that we managed to be in that round,” Nadal said. “Now to play against Roger always is a unique situation. Excited to be back on this court against him after 11 years. Means a lot for me and probably for him, too.
“Excited about this match, excited about this opportunity to be again in that round against him. Always I say the same: of course, the opportunities to play against each other every time are less, but we still here. After tomorrow we going to have another chance.”
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The two-time champion also became the first player to qualify for the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals, to be held 10-17 November at The O2 in London. Nadal has qualified 15 consecutive years at the season-ending championships.
The third seed broke Querrey six times, including twice in the crucial first set, to avenge his 2017 Acapulco final loss to the 6'6” American. Querrey approached the net against the Nadal forehand, and the Spaniard made him pay, leaping into the air with his first break.
But Querrey stunned Nadal with a break in the ninth game to draw even at 5-5. The American was serving and returning big and also tossing in drop shots when he saw the Spaniard sagging behind the baseline.
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Nadal, however, broke back and served as well as ever to hold for the opening set. He mixed up his location well, frequently catching Querrey off guard with a serve to his more powerful forehand. “To get the first set would have given me a lot of momentum. That was really a game changer,” Querrey said.
The American hung around during the second set, but Nadal, who fell behind 15/40, 3-2, erased both break points and sprinted to the finish from there.
“He makes a ton of just stab returns in, then he puts a little extra pressure on you coming in because he has such great passing shots,” Querrey said. “[He] forced a few more errors than I like. But then at the same time, he hit a handful of great passing shots by me. Just the combination of those few things makes it tougher than playing some other guys.”
The Spaniard saved six of seven break points for the match, often never hitting more than one ball. The Spaniard finished with 43 winners to only 12 unforced errors. Querrey, meanwhile, will be proud of his 38 winner, 22 unforced-error tally.
“I think I am playing with a very high intensity, playing aggressive, serving well and returning very well,” Nadal said. “Today was a big, big challenge against a server like Sam. [I broke] him six times, which is a lot against a player like him... I am very, very happy with the way I am playing.”
Next, the semi-final everyone circled when the draw was released: Nadal-Federer, XL (Nadal leads 24-15). The Spaniard beat Federer last month at Roland Garros, but Federer has made headway in their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry of late thanks to their matchups on quick courts.
The two have met three times at Wimbledon: 2006 final (Federer), 2007 final (Federer) and their classic 2008 final (Nadal), which many consider the greatest tennis match of all-time. The Spaniard won 6-4, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-7(8), 9-7.
“I just expect to play against probably the best player of the history in this surface and know that I have to play my best if I want to have chances to try to be in that final,” Nadal said.