Rafael Nadal produced a vintage comeback while physically compromised to sting Taylor Fritz in their five-set quarter-final battle, after Elena Rybakina rallied from a set down, overwhelming Ajla Tomljanovic to punch her ticket into a maiden Major semi-final – where she’ll play Amanda Anisimova’s conqueror and 2019 champion Simona Halep on Thursday.
after five-set battle, Nadal leaves Fritz floundering
Nadal  bt. Fritz  3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (10-4)
- Nadal to play familiar foe Nick Kyrgios next, in one of Friday’s semi-finals
- 36-year-old sustained injury in set two, but soldiered on and won that set 7-5
- Fritz suffers heartbreak in maiden Major quarter-final, having twice led by a set
When his back is against the wall, crowd stunned into silence and all doubts point to a heartbreaking Major defeat, that’s the moment Rafael Nadal steps up, producing another typically gutsy comeback while injured to leave the similarly spirited Taylor Fritz in disbelief.
There were multiple stages where the American, enjoying a career year and justifiably full of confidence, could’ve folded and gone away quietly.
That in itself is a remarkable sentence to write, considering he had a one-set advantage – twice – and was at one stage in the decider just three points from a first Grand Slam semi-final.
But just as defending champion Novak Djokovic willed himself back from the brink against Jannik Sinner yesterday, Nadal did the same in four hours 20 minutes to keep his hopes of achieving an unprecedented feat this year alive: the Grand Slam.
What an opportunity this was turning out to be. Having been undone in Melbourne last year against another of the sport’s all-time greats, Fritz had been sufficiently battle hardened against other competitors and recently beaten a less-than-100% Nadal to clinch Indian Wells in March.
His serve deserted him when it was needed most, but how did he respond? Immediately breaking the Spaniard, 36 last month, back.
As you could sense Rafa’s compatriot and friend Feliciano Lopez shifting uncomfortably in his seat commentating for BBC, Nadal quickly put those on edge at ease by firing a pair of down-the-line forehands Fritz couldn’t answer.
Evidenced by the makeable misses continuing to fly off his racquet, Fritz’s performance levels were fading but he didn’t drop his demeanour until deep in their eventual 10-point tiebreak.
Down 5-0, he won three straight points to display more of the stubborn defiance with which he played. Then he relinquished the next three, including one where the serve just caught the line, and he couldn’t help but moan to his players’ box. You would have, too.
He’ll play a familiar foe in maiden Major semifinalist Nick Kyrgios on Friday, after the unpredictable Australian dismissed Chile’s Cristian Garin in straight-sets (6-4, 6-3, 7-6).
Halep halts Anisimova, rybakina awaits in semifinal
Simona Halep‘s resurgence continues, after the 30-year-old – a two-time Major champion – won 6-2, 6-4 vs. America’s Amanda Anisimova who sprayed unforced errors for fun (28, to Halep’s 6).
The 16th seed will next play Elena Rybakina, after the Kazakh recovered from a set down to confine Ajla Tomljanovic to consecutive Major quarter-final defeats.
Thursday, Ladies’ semi-finals:
Ons Jabeur  vs. Tatjana Maria
Elena Rybakina  vs. Simona Halep 
As promised, I’ll continue producing round-ups with the latest results, game reports and news at this year’s Wimbledon, so ensure you stay tuned to moandsports.com for the latest coverage.
Picture source: Getty Images