Normally so relentless from point to point, Rafael Nadal occasionally would watch as a ball off the racket of Taylor Fritz landed in during the Wimbledon quarterfinals.
Wincing from an abdominal issue for which he took a medical timeout, Nadal couldn’t move the way he usually does. His trademark grunts of “Uhhhh!” were rare. He didn’t generate the usual zip on his serves, which dipped from a high of 120 mph to barely above 100 mph. He sought to end exchanges with a quick-strike forehand or a drop shot — sometimes with success, often not.
With much of the Centre Court crowd loudly supporting the 22-time major champion, roaring and standing after his best strokes, Nadal figured out a way to hang in there and twice erased one-set deficits against the 11th-seeded Fritz, emerging with 3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (10-4) victory to reach his eighth semifinal at the All England Club.
Nadal extended his unbeaten mark in Grand Slam matches in 2022 to 19-0 as he seeks to add a trophy at Wimbledon to his triumphs at the Australian Open in January, then the French Open in June. For everything that he’s accomplished, the 36-year-old Spaniard never has won the first three Slam titles of a season.
On Friday, Nadal will meet Nick Kyrgios, a 27-year-old Australian who will be making his Grand Slam semifinal debut after a 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (5) victory over Cristian Garin of Chile.
The other men’s semifinal will be No. 1 Novak Djokovic against No. 9 Cam Norrie.
The women’s semifinals Thursday will be 2019 champion Simona Halep against No. 17 Elena Rybakina, and No. 3 Ons Jabeur against unseeded Tatjana Maria.
Halep advanced by eliminating No. 20 Amanda Anisimova of the United States 6-2, 6-4, and Rybakina came back to defeat Ajla Tomljanovic 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.
Nadal leads Kyrgios 6-3 in their head-to-head series, but they are even at 1-all at Wimbledon: Kyrgios, just 19 and ranked 144th, announced himself to the world by stunning Nadal in 2014; Nadal won the rematch in 2019.
Give Kyrgios credit for honesty: Even he did not think