TENNIS

Rafael Nadal follows other legends on Wimbledon success

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Rafael Nadal competed at Wimbledon for the first time in three years and continued where he left in 2018 and 2019. A two-time champion picked up five wins to extend his Majors winning streak and stay in the title hunt.

Struggling with an abdominal injury, Rafa had to retire ahead of the semi-final clash with Nick Kyrgios, ending his campaign and returning home to deal with the injury. Nadal advanced to the eighth Wimbledon semi-final and became the seventh player in the Open era to do so.

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Roger Federer leads the pack with 13, and Novak Djokovic and Jimmy Connors trail two behind him. Boris Becker is fourth out of nine, followed by tied three legends out of eight. Americans John McEnroe and Pete Sampras had company, with Rafa joining the party as the seventh player with the most Wimbledon semi-finals.

The Spaniard collected five semi-finals at the All England Club between 2006 and 2011, hoping for more in the years to come. Instead, Rafa lost ground at Wimbledon between 2012 and 2017, scoring barely a few wins and failing to reach the quarter-finals.

Nadal raised his level and qualified for the last eight in 2018 and 2019, playing well and losing to Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer. The Spaniard missed Wimbledon last year through injury and returned two weeks ago as this season’s two-time major winner.

Struggling with an abdominal injury, Nadal couldn’t work on his serve, and he still tried his best to score five wins and advance to the last four. Rafa picked up similar victories over Francisco Cerundolo and Ricardas Berankis, dropping a set in both matches and spending six and a half hours on the pitch.

Nadal played better against Lorenzo Sonego in the third round and sealed the deal within two hours to advance to the last 16. Rafa ousted Botic Van De Zandschulp in straight sets and set up the quarter-final encounter against Taylor Fritz.

It was open warfare and Nadal prevailed 3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 after four hours and 20 minutes.

Rafael Nadal has collected eight Wimbledon semi-finals.

Rafa struggled with his initial shot and things didn’t go well after the third set.

Still, he refused to surrender and prevailed in the next two sets to emerge on top. Taylor came from 3-1 down in Game 1 and won five straight for 6-3 and a boost. Rafa opened a 3-0 lead in the second set, and Taylor erased the deficit to make it 3-3.

Fritz broke on serve to stay in the set at 5-6 after Nadal’s winning volley at the net. The American played well in the third set, keeping his serve safe and sending the pressure to the other side. He beat Rafa in games three and nine, built a huge advantage and came close to the finish line.

Nadal spoke with the doctor and decided to continue and at least try to finish the duel without retiring. They traded three breaks early in the fourth set, and Nadal found himself ahead 4-2 after a comfortable hold. Fritz broke in the eighth game and locked the result at 4-4.

The Spaniard forced the rival’s error in game 11 to advance 6-5 and held the score in the next with a forehand winner to force a decider. Both players served well early in the fifth set before Rafa converted the fourth break chance with a drop shot winner for 4-3.

Taylor pulled the break back minutes later and moved up 5-4 with a crosscourt backhand winner. Rafa served to stay in the game and landed a perfect volley at the net for 5-5. Fritz grabbed the 11th game with an ace on the T-line, and Nadal stayed in love with a service winner minutes later to introduce the match tie break.

Rafa progressed 3-0 with a forced error and took a 6-3 lead after a loose backhand from his rival. The Spaniard grabbed the next point after an extended rally and volley winner and landed a forehand winner on the line at 8-3 for six match points.

Nadal grabbed the second with a forehand winner to emerge on top and advance to the semis.

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