Rafael Nadal races through fourth-round clash to keep calendar slam bid on track

·5 min read

Rafael Nadal eased into the quarter-finals of Wimbledon following another straight-sets win over Botic van de Zandschulp.

The 36-year-old had defeated the 21st seed on his way to the French Open title last month and repeated the trick in SW19 with an efficient 6-4 6-2 7-6 (6) victory.

Success over the Dutchman in two hours and 21 minutes saw proceedings on Centre Court end comfortably before the 11pm curfew that almost left defending champion Novak Djokovic in limbo on Sunday, with the roof not even required as the Spaniard stayed on course for a calendar year grand slam.

It was the bounce of the balls that caused some initial problems for Nadal and saw him have an early chat with the umpire, before Van de Zandschulp tried in vain to turn this into a close contest.

A wonderful forehand winner on the run earned applause from the Centre Court crowd but it was all too fleeting for the Dutchman, who was broken in the decisive 10th game of the opening set.

Five games in a row saw Nadal grasp control and a delightful drop shot clinched another break, with a third handed over after a double-fault by Van de Zandschulp.

It had taken the double-Wimbledon champion just over two hours to see off Lorenzo Sonego in round two but his eagerness for a rapid finish here hit a speed bump.

Botic van de Zandschulp put up a fight
Botic van de Zandschulp put up a fight (Zac Goodwin/PA)

While Van de Zandschulp’s early break was immediately cancelled out, Nadal’s animated punches of the air after he stooped low to make a brilliant backhand winner were short-lived.

The world number 25 hit back from 5-2 down to force a tie-breaker, after both players had slipped on the grass, but a missed forehand smash saw Nadal get over the line from his fifth match point.

It sets up a reunion with Taylor Fritz, who beat the world number four in the Indian Wells final in March.

Nadal played that match with a stress fracture of a rib and then needed radio-wave treatment on a nerve in his left foot last month to make it to SW19, but constant talk of his fitness is wearing down the 22-time major champion.

Rafael Nadal is still on course for a calendar year grand slam
Rafael Nadal is still on course for a calendar year grand slam (Zac Goodwin/PA)

“I am a little bit tired to talk about my body,” he said. “Sometimes I am tired about myself, all the issues that I am having. I prefer to not talk about that now. Sorry for that.

“But I am in the middle of the tournament and I have to keep going? All respect for the rest of the opponents. I am just trying my best every single day.

“For the moment I am healthy enough to keep going and fight for the things that I want.”

Fritz again won in straight sets, 6-3 6-1 6-4 over Jason Kubler to extend his winning streak on grass to eight matches after success in Eastbourne last month.

Taylor Fritz celebrates reaching the quarter-finals
Taylor Fritz celebrates reaching the quarter-finals (Steven Paston/PA)

“It is crazy to go from where I was at maybe mentally after Queen’s, like feeling injured, I’ve just lost like three matches in a row, to now I’m in my first slam quarter-final,” the 11th seed said.

“It’s a big jump. It’s so interesting. It’s kind of like how tennis is. One, two good weeks, five or six good matches in a row, can kind of just change everything.”

Unseeded Cristian Garin produced a remarkable comeback to down Alex De Minaur after he saved two match points and fought back from two sets down to win in five.

The 26-year-old triumphed 2-6 5-7 7-6 (3) 6-4 7-6 (6) to become the first Chilean into the last eight of a grand slam since Fernando Gonzalez at the US Open in 2009.

De Minaur let slip a break point in the 11th game of the third set and then wasted two break points in the decider at 5-4 up to go down after four hours and 34 minutes of enthralling action.

Garin said: “(This) is something very special for me. Wimbledon, I said this many times, is my favourite tournament. Every time that I play this tournament is something special.

“To be in the quarter-finals here is a dream. I will try to enjoy it. I will try to give my best in the next round.”

Next up for Garin is a first meeting with Nick Kyrgios, who also needed five sets to beat Brandon Nakashima.

Nick Kyrgios won in five sets on Centre Court
Nick Kyrgios won in five sets on Centre Court (Aaron Chown/PA)

The Australian won the Centre Court encounter 4-6 6-4 7-6 (2) 3-6 6-2 to make the last eight at the All England Club.

Kyrgios, who was able to shake off a troublesome right shoulder, said: “I’ve played so much tennis in the last month and a half, so I almost knew that it was time for my body to start feeling some niggles.

“I think that’s normal. At this time in the event I don’t think anyone is feeling 100 per cent.

“It’s just something I manage. Mentally I feel like I just deal with these things a lot better now.”