Rafael Nadal beats Taylor Fritz in Wimbledon quarterfinals

Advertisement

Rafael Nadal beats Taylor Fritz in Wimbledon quarterfinals

WIMBLEDON, England — There was calm in one stadium, brouhaha in the other. One was at peace with – my goodness – Nick Kyrgios, the other this mess known around the world where gentle soul Rafael Nadal tries to climb into the crypt from nine tenths.

On Court #1, the incredibly talented but fierce Kyrgios reached his maiden Grand Slam semi-final on his 30th attempt, then fell on his back onto the grass and then sat thoughtfully in his chair. On center court, Nadal looked frail enough to pull out of the match, and Californian Taylor Fritz attempted all the complicated parsing in it – while crowds everywhere around 2022 showed off the tennis crowds’ odd talent and a 22-time major Winners as seen by Nadal , the greatest fighter in the world and he reckons he needs more booming encouragement.

As two tennis stadiums almost shoulder to shoulder at the All England Club enjoyed their final memorable Wednesday, Australia’s Kyrgios defeated the impressive Chilean Cristian Garin 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 in a reasonable 2 hours and 13 minutes ( 7-5), in an unexpected matchup of unseeded participants. Spain’s Nadal – but more of an Earther now – held up a meandering 4:21 strike with the still-rising Fritz by dominating that newfangled super tiebreaker they’re using here to decide fifth sets. He won 3:6, 7:5, 3:6, 7:5, 7:6 (10:4).

“I never thought I would be here,” said Kyrgios, 27. “I thought the ship was gone.”

“They told me I have to stop the match, yes,” said 36-year-old Nadal about his father’s and sister’s gestures – and his stomach ache.

Now they’re heading towards a raucous semi-final next Friday – “A delicious kind of encounter for everyone around the world,” Kyrgios called it – assuming No. 2 Nadal and his protesting gut make it there. “Concerned honestly now, no?” he said. “It’s part of the business, isn’t it?”

In the silent part of the afternoon, Kyrgios shared how he sat in his chair and reflected on “how things can change” and “a point where I was almost done with the sport” and past “thoughts of self-harm and suicide and so”. He said his lawyers had advised him not to comment on the news at hand – a court date in Canberra next month for assaulting an ex-girlfriend.

“‘No, he doesn’t have the mental capacity,'” he quoted the many who have been said over the years. “‘He doesn’t have the fitness capacity; he doesn’t have the discipline” – all of that. I was almost starting to doubt myself with all the traffic going in and out of my head. I just sat there today and took it all in. There are just so many people I want to thank.”

In the noisy part of the afternoon and early evening, Nadal teetered on the brink of doom again, as he had done in an Australian Open final where he trailed Daniil Medvedev by two sets and looked down, and as he did at a French Open had done by playing on a foot he wasn’t sure would work. This time, an abdominal muscle provided the threat, and on set number two he clearly took some caliber from his backhand and serve, the latter often laced with uncharacteristically gentleness.

Once Nadal ventured inside to find anti-inflammatories, the crowd confused the still-rising Fritz, 24 and seeded 11th, as something like that had many players over time.

“It definitely got me thinking,” said the big server, whose heady year includes a win over Nadal at the Indian Wells Finals in March. “I kind of stopped being so aggressive. I feel like I took it a little bit. It looked a bit like he wasn’t moving that well on some shots and then the serve obviously lost some speed. But I feel like towards the end of the second game we played some really long rallies where I ran him side to side and he scored some goals that I don’t think a lot of normal players would be able to match.

At that point, he said, “I was like, ‘All right … I can’t treat it like he’s hurt.’ ”

Around that time, Kyrgios spoke without fanfare, nothing like the circus in the middle and after the game of his third-round win over Stefanos Tsitsipas. This player, ranked 40th but number 1 as the epicenter of excitement, said he’s been checking his phone less and spending more time at his house, which “hasn’t always been the easiest thing for me throughout my career”. He hadn’t even attempted trick shots against Garin and raved about Garin’s forehand return. Garin, in 43rd place, said: “Today he played very solidly throughout the game. I haven’t seen anything strange. Yes, he deserved to win today because he’s a great, great player too.”

Kyrgios: “Of course, for the last year and a half I’ve been thinking about whether I still want to play. Lost love, lost fire, lost spark.”

Nadal, of course, never had such thoughts, so he started to feel the adrenaline, or the anti-inflammatories, or the cherished dish, and the rowdy crowd. “I won because I played very well from the baseline,” he said with his Grand Slam record of 19-0 this year. “Of course I didn’t win because of the serve. It is obvious.”

He kept thinking he might pull out of the match, but then: “I’ve done it a few times in my tennis career. Is something I hate doing. So I just keep trying and that’s it.”

The closing stresses of the fifth set, when Nadal broke Fritz with a 4-3 advantage but Fritz broke Nadal 4-4, had made Nadal’s ground game downright impenetrable. The injury had gone elsewhere. Fritz felt rather confused by Nadal’s softer serves because he couldn’t capitalize on the pace. Fritz’s unforced errors had gone from two in the first set and three in the third to eleven in the fourth and ten in the fifth set.

“I absolutely yanked the ball into corners,” Fritz said, “and he ran and yanked them back to be winners, so . . .”

But Fritz saw no gimmicks. He suspected Nadal was feeling his stomach creaking and was probably worried about the severity of a potential tear. “Maybe that explains why the movement might not have been as explosive for a couple of games,” Fritz said.

When they made it to the tie-break after 7pm under a bright blue sky, Nadal was the player who had witnessed 33 previous Grand Slam five-setters. He tore a backhand pass to make it 1-0. He went flawless until 5:0. Fritz came up 5-3 but Nadal roared from there, finishing with a groundstroke across the court for a clean winner and more chaos.

“I mean, it’s Nadal,” said Fritz, smiling at his fate as an unsupported underdog. “How can you ask someone who wants to cheer him on?” Still: “I really, really wanted this match.” And: “I’ve never felt like I could cry after a loss”, but on Wednesday he was close your turn. And: “Honestly, it probably hurts more than any loss I’ve ever had.”

He had lost to Nadal’s Lazarus role, as had others before him, so Nadal moved on, even as he called Wednesday “the worst day” with “a significant increase in pain and limitations” and even as he wondered about Friday and said: “There’s something even more important than winning Wimbledon – that’s health”, and although most who witnessed his outstanding endurance probably didn’t believe him too much.

You May Also Like