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Ailing Nadal finds mental steel to edge Fritz

wimbledon
Victory keeps Nadal's bid for a calendar Grand Slam on track and sets up a semi-final against Nick Kyrgios

A hurting Rafa Nadal exhibited heroic mental strength to edge American 11th seed Taylor Fritz in a final set tiebreaker during a captivating Wimbledon quarter-final contest on Wednesday to keep alive his quest for a calendar year Grand Slam.

Struggling with an abdominal injury, Nadal appeared close to retiring mid-match on Centre Court but found the will to beat the 24-year-old Fritz 3-6 7-5 3-6 7-5 7-6 (10-4) in four hours and 20 minutes to set up a semi-final showdown against Australian maverick Nick Kyrgios.

Fritz, who beat Nadal in the final at Indian Wells to put an end to the Spaniard’s 20-match winning run at the start of the 2022 season, overturned an early deficit to race through the opening set, winning five straight games from 1-3, 0-30 down.

The 36-year-old Nadal, who won the Australian and French Open titles back-to-back this year for the first time in his career, left the court for a medical time-out for an abdominal issue with his father fervently urging him from the player’s box to put an end to his misery.

But the two-time former Wimbledon champion paid no heed to the requests and returned to the packed showcourt amid huge applause and then broke Fritz in the 12th game to level the match at one set apiece.

Still struggling while serving, Nadal was broken two times as the American bagged the third set comfortably.

Not ready to throw in the towel yet, Nadal traded two breaks before claiming the American’s serve a third time to force a deciding fifth set.

With the crowd firmly behind him, Nadal converted his fourth breakpoint in the seventh game to take the lead and stared back at his player’s box. But Fritz once again broke back to force a fitting 10-point deciding tiebreaker.

The 22-time major winner surged 5-0 ahead in the tiebreaker, then won a 25-shot rally amid raucous applause and converted his second matchpoint with a stinging forehand winner to secure a memorable victory.

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