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Sunday, January 29, 2023

Rafael Nadal through to the Wimbledon quarter-finals – Citi Sports Online

Rafael Nadal survived a late fightback to move into the quarter-finals at Wimbledon following a 6-4 6-2 7-6(6) win over Botic van de Zandschulp.

Van de Zandschulp was ranked 57 last year as he broke the top 100, but his quarter-final run at the US Open has lifted him to a career-high 25.

The 26-year-old Dutchman was playing to reach the same stage at SW19, having beaten experienced Frenchman Richard Gasquet at the weekend.

Nadal, for his part, had beaten Italian youngster Lorenzo Sonego to face his opponent and the Spaniard was looking to add yet another Grand Slam win to his resume.

The pair were well matched with the opening stages going with service at 3-3 after half an hour’s play, in slightly cooler weather on Centre Court compared to earlier action.

A wicked return down the line from Van de Zandschulp showed Nadal that he could not take his younger opponent lightly, but he responded by swiftly putting the game away.

A mistake at the net gave Nadal a chance to ramp up the pressure and break him to go a decisive 6-4 up in the first set.

Nadal then broke early to go 2-0 up and carried on his momentum to a 4-1 lead, with Van de Zandschulp struggling with his service game – three double faults after two sets – and he promptly lost the second set 6-2.

At the start of the third set, Van de Zandschulp rallied from 40-0 down to earn a break point, and take it, to give himself a boost, only to double fault immediately after as Nadal broke back to go level at 1-1.

Some superb reaction play from Nadal helped move him to 4-2 up and only two games from the last eight, and an unanswered seventh game serve left him on the verge of victory, but a remarkable run of play that culminated in an overhit return from Nadal gave Van de Zandschulp a real chance at 5-4 with a service game to come and he duly forced a tie-break.

A wonderful, exhausting point put Nadal 4-2 up, but with serving for the match at 6-3, he somehow soon found himself tied at 6-6, only to follow through with the decisive two winning points.

“I think I continued in a positive way,” Nadal said afterwards. “Until the end when I played a bad game at 5-2 when it had been a very positive match. A difficult opponent [who has been] improving all year; huge congrats to him for his amazing improvement.

“After all the things that have happened over the last couple of months, to be able to be in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon after three years [away makes me] very happy.

“Every match is different [on grass]. [Taylor Fritz] will be a tough match; but it’s the quarter-finals of Wimbledon, so what can I expect?”

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