Rafael Nadal needed every last point, but he got the job done.
The second-seeded Spaniard battled through pain and a 2-1 set deficit to earn a 3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (4) win over Taylor Fritz in Wednesday's quarterfinals matchup at the 2022 Wimbledon Championships.
Just <a href="https://twitter.com/RafaelNadal?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@RafaelNadal</a> things 😤<br><br>The champion comes back to defeat Taylor Fritz in a five-set epic, 3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(4)<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Wimbledon?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Wimbledon</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CentreCourt100?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#CentreCourt100</a> <a href="https://t.co/G7Luqy8lSH">pic.twitter.com/G7Luqy8lSH</a>
The five-set thriller took more than four hours to complete and featured a quintessential Nadal comeback from the brink of defeat. Early in the second set, Nadal called for a trainer as he dealt with pain in a taped-up midsection—a move that was seemingly setting up Fritz to advance on a walkover or to breeze past a banged-up Nadal.
Instead, Nadal did exactly what he's done for nearly two decades: gritted his teeth, fought back and refused to give up until he seized victory.
Nadal fought through the pain to come back and win the second set 7-5 before again scuffling again in the third. But every time it appeared Fritz was taking control of the match—and this time for good—Nadal would win a critical point, then a critical set, all to set up a match-winning tiebreaker that sent him to the semifinals.
The 36-year-old saved his most dominant tennis for the closing moments of the match, carrying the deciding tiebreaker 10-4 and never seeming in danger of falling behind. He won despite an uncharacteristically sloppy seven double faults and despite giving up eight break points.
Fritz, playing in his first major quarterfinal, acquitted himself brilliantly to the moment. He remained poised and under control amid a mounting comeback from a legend, finishing the match with 19 aces against three double faults while winning exactly as many points (168) as Nadal and one more game (28-27) in the match.
It was a star-making moment for the 24-year-old, who was seeking to become the first American major winner since Andy Roddick in 2003.
Fritz will have to settle instead for the bitter pill of the raucous ovation he received from the All England Club as he exited the court, with the fans in attendance recognizing the effort of two understandably exhausted men who left it all on the court.
Nadal moves on to play a familiar foe in Nick Kyrgios, who reached his first career Grand Slam semifinal with a straight-sets win over Cristian Garin. Kyrgios reaching the pinnacle of his career comes amid allegations of domestic violence made by an ex-girlfriend in his native Australia. He is set to face charges in court next month.
As for Nadal, he will look to make it seven wins in 10 matches against Kyrgios as he attempts to complete the calendar Grand Slam. Nadal has not won at the grass-court major since 2010 but snapped a 12-year drought at the Australian Open earlier this year.