Wimbledon | Nadal survives a testing match
Following the exit of the defending champion Roger Federer the dream final of him meeting Rafa Nadal for this year’s title, in a repeat of that epic 2008 final, was dashed.
Rafa though, kept his own hopes alive and those who wanted an epic battle, were given one as the Spaniard, the world number one, was forced to fight through five hours before he eventually got past a stubborn Juan Martin del Potro.
I feel sorry for Juan Martin. He’s an amazing opponent, an amazing player, in some ways he deserves the victory too Rafa Nadal
The two-time champion was forced to come back from a set down before breaking in a thrilling fifth set to win 7-5 6-7(7) 4-6 6-4 6-4 in four-hours and 50-minutes.
Del Potro set the scene for the epic by bouncing back from a set down to claim a closely-contested tie-break in the second.
The big Argentine then forced a late break of serve in the third to take a two sets to one lead thereby putting Nadal under great pressure to avoid the same fate as his Swiss rival earlier that day.
Nadal broke midway through the fourth to level and set up what proved to be one of the most exciting sets witnessed at Wimbledon. It certainly seemed so to Andy Murray making his debut as a commentator alongside Tim Henman.
Amongst many excellent exchanges, one stood out. It was a 24-shot rally which ended with Del Potro pulling off the most sublime diving volley to avoid going down a break point.
Then there was the incident which saw Nadal ending up in the crowd after chasing down an angled shot from his opponent. Fortunately he wasn’t hurt having negotiated his landing well after leaping over the barrier between the supporters and the court.
With play now starting to enter the twilight zone the pair slipped and fell frequently but it didn’t halt the action. On one occasion, Nadal fell flat on his back but managed to get up to blast a backhand winner and snatch the crucial break.
Del Potro should have levelled moments later when he had the chance to thump a forehand into a wide open court only to shank the shot.
But the 2009 US Open champion’s spirit never died, despite fatigue starting to set in. He set up another three break points only for Nadal to fend them off as he edged his way, after a 13-minute game, to the last four where he will play a revitalised Novak Djokovic in what promises to be another exhilarating match.
“It was a very emotional match – great quality of tennis,” Nadal said in his post match interview having previously hugged his fatigued and disappointed opponent on court. “I feel sorry for Juan Martin. He’s an amazing opponent, an amazing player, in some ways he deserves the victory too.”