Wimbledon, London July 2-15, 2018; 128 draw (32 seeds); Surface – Grass
4th quarterfinal: (2)Rafael Nadal d. (5)Juan Martin del Potro 7-5, 6-7(7), 4-6, 6-4, 6-4
Nadal dug deep and played with great courage on Wednesday to edge past fifth-seeded Argentine in a high drama encounter at The Championships. Both players often found themselves on the grass in an all-time great match, which transfixed spectators on-site as England’s footballers played Croatia in Moscow in the World Cup semi-finals. Nadal twisted and slid about from behind the baseline, once chasing a ball and ending up in the crowd, while Del Potro produce multiple diving volleys in the Centre Court classic that lasted 4 hours and 48 minutes. “I am very happy the way that I survived a lot of important points in that fifth set,” said Nadal. “I think I did a lot of things well. I went to the net. In general terms, [it has] been a positive match. Only negative thing is I played almost five hours, and I had the chance maybe to play less winning that second set. For the rest of the things, great news, semi-finals of Wimbledon again. Great match, emotional match for both of us and for the fans, too. Great feelings.” Nadal needed to bide his time in a brilliant first set, which lasted 54 minutes and was full of long rallies. Del Potro was, at times, predictable in his service patterns and although he struck 14 winners, Nadal was patient. Del Potro recovered from 15/40 at 3:4, but hit a backhand into the net in the 12th game on Nadal’s second set point opportunity. The second set briefly swung in Del Potro’s favour, when Nadal committed four forehand errors at 4-all. Del Potro, who had hung in and fought hard, came within two points of clinching the set in the next game, but Nadal bounced back to strike a forehand winner into space for 5-all. Clever service placement by Nadal, coupled with speed up the court, took him to a 6:3 lead in the tie-break. Yet a second double fault at 6:5 let Del Potro back in. Nadal was unable to return a big Del Potro serve at 7:6 and the popular Argentine grew in confidence. At 8:7, on his first set point, Del Potro struck a crosscourt forehand that hit the net cord and bounced too low for Nadal to scramble back. “Of course I was worried when I lost the second set,” said Nadal. “Winning 6:3 in the tie-break, it’s true that he played two great points with his serve, but then I made a very important mistake.” Nadal tightened up his game, but in serving second in the third set, he felt the pressure. Having lost just one of his service points in four games, Nadal found himself in a deep hole at 4:5, 0/40, when Del Potro’s aggression counted. Del Potro struck a forehand winner on his first set point opportunity to end the 44-minute set. Prior to the start of the fourth set, Nadal took an off-court break and returned in a determined mood to break in the fifth game, largely courtesy of three forehand errors from Del Potro. On second serve returns, Nadal stepped in from behind the baseline and managed to wrestle the momentum away from Del Potro. Two set point chances went begging at 5:3, with Del Potro serving at 30/40, when Nadal hit a slice backhand into the net, and at Ad-Out, when Del Potro hit a forehand winner. But the Spaniard remained focused and took the pair’s sixth Grand Slam championship meeting (Nadal leads 4-1) to a decider, finishing with a crosscourt backhand winner in a hold to 15. Nadal appeared to be the fresher in the opening exchanges of the decider. But once again Del Potro had the advantage of serving first in the set and at 1-all, 30/30, both players showed just how much they wanted a place in the semi-finals on Friday. At the end of a lengthy baseline rally, Del Potro dived full length – a la Boris Becker – to return an angled backhand from Nadal that looked destined for a winner. Nadal soon used the drop shot to earn quick points, with Del Potro behind the baseline and he earned the break for a 3:2 lead. “Once Rafa breaks my serves, then the match becomes difficult for me,” said Del Potro. “I had also my chances to break back in the fifth, and I missed some forehands. I think the key of the match was only three, four points in the end, and he took the chances.” In a tense eighth game, which featured six deuces, Nadal saved four break points to take a 5:3 lead and edged closer to his 28th Grand Slam championship semi-final with a forehand winner. The Argentine kept working and fighting, but in fading light it was Nadal who held his nerve for a Friday blockbuster against Djokovic.
“Pure elation right now. Very, very happy to be in this position right now in the semi-finals. With how I’m feeling physically and mentally, I’m in a very good spot. I think I can keep doing damage here,” Isner said. “This is amazing. It’s by far the best Grand Slam I’ve ever played in my career, and I’ve been playing for 11 years. I’m super happy. To do it here at Wimbledon makes it even a little bit more special.” The 33-year-old American didn’t play perfect, but he stepped up exactly when he needed to during only his second Grand Slam quarter-final (2011 US Open, l. to Murray), showing more poise and combativeness than the 28-year-old Raonic, who was trying to reach his third Wimbledon semi-final. Before this fortnight, Isner had never reached past the third round at SW19. But it’s all come together for the 6’10” right-hander the past two weeks, in large part thanks to his world-class serve but also because of his aggressive returning and active net play. Isner erased the only break point he faced against Raonic and has yet to be broken this fortnight through five matches. He also broke Raonic three times, including twice in the final set. The American won 81 per cent of his net points (30/37). “I’ve been serving and volleying pretty well. I think I’ve covered the net well. That’s something I’ve worked on a lot. I’ve had some game plans in each match. I’ve executed them, I think, almost to perfection,” Isner said. “In the big points, this whole tournament, I’ve been calm and collected and felt like I’ve played them well.” After Raonic won the first-set tie-break, it looked as if the Canadian would take a two-set lead. He saw a set point come and go at 6:5 in the second-set tie-break, after Isner had double faulted for 4-all. But the American came back, breaking Raonic at 7-all and serving out the set. Isner’s return game gradually improved as he became more comfortable in the third set, and he broke in the fifth game. He faced trouble on his racquet, though, at 5:4, 30/40. But just as he had done against Ruben Bemelmans (6-1, 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 7-5) in the second round, when Isner faced two match points on his serve, Isner served his way out of trouble before racing through the final set. He finished with 25 aces to bring his tournament-best total to 160. “I didn’t have many chances,” Raonic said. Isner’s Wimbledon result is further evidence that he, at 33 years old, is playing the best tennis of his career. In April, he won his maiden ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title at the Miami Open, and at Roland Garros, Isner made the fourth round for only the third time in his career. The American is set to climb to a new career high of No. 8 in the ATP Rankings on Monday when the new rankings are released.
2nd quarterfinal: (8)Kevin Anderson d. (1)Roger Federer 2-6, 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-4, 13-11
Anderson recovered from two sets down, and saved one match point, to stun eight-time champion Federer at Wimbledon on Wednesday to claim one of the most important victories of his career. The eighth seed, competing in his first quarter-final at the All England Club, recovered from the brink of defeat after Federer held match point at 5:4 Ad-Out in the third set. The defending champion was on the verge of clinching a record-breaking 35th consecutive set at SW19, but Anderson rallied with aggression to reach his second Grand Slam semi-final after 4 hours and 14 minutes. “I have already gotten tons of messages from support back home,” said Anderson. “Obviously at this sort of event, playing against an opponent like Roger is going to have a lot of coverage. Again, I really hope it’s an example of sticking to your dreams and keep believing in yourself. I always say I was in the same position, it’s not easy coming from South Africa, it’s very far from the tennis scene… I felt the first set obviously wasn’t great for me. I was a little bit unsettled starting the match out. I thought I settled down much better in the second set. Even though I lost it in a tie-break, I felt I played a much, much better set of tennis. Obviously in the third set, I just tried to compete as hard as I could. I was able to hold serve throughout. Obviously [Federer] had that one match point, but I played a good point and was able to get that break. I feel like once I did that, I really settled down well and felt pretty comfortable out there.” The No. 8 seed snaps a six-match losing streak against Top 5 opposition to record five consecutive grass-court match wins for the first time. Anderson’s last victory over Top 5 opposition came at the 2015 US Open, when he defeated Andy Murray in the Round of 16. “He’s got a nice, big serve that he can rely heavily on… There’s nothing really that shocked me because I’ve seen Kevin play many, many times in the past,” said Federer. “Even if the matches have been maybe sometimes one-sided… you always know he can pick it up, and all of a sudden you won’t see breaks for some time.” With both men holding serve with relative ease in the 4th set, Anderson made the crucial move in the seventh game. While Federer faltered on his forehand, Anderson fired his into the corner to earn two break point opportunities. A fortunate backhand return for Anderson, which hit the net cord, forced Federer into another forehand error. That moment proved to be the decisive moment of the set as Anderson held serve, after saving break point, in the tenth game to ensure a deciding set. With neither man able to make inroads in their return games, Federer, after failing to convert break point in the eighth game, eventually made a second bid for a break at 6:5. The Swiss moved up the court, lifting his level of aggression to create an opportunity in the 12th game, but Anderson matched Federer, with huge hitting off his forehand and serve to level the score. Both men continued to hold serve comfortably until 11:11, with Federer making four fatal errors to concede a crucial break. Anderson took full advantage in the following game, holding serve to 15 to complete a stunning comeback. “I guess there was definitely a moment [where I lost control of the match] at some point,” said Federer. “Is it missing match points? Is it getting broken at 5-all after that?”. Federer becomes the third man in history to lose at least 20 matches squandering match point(s), following all-serve guys, Isner (26) & Karlovic (21).
Three-time former champion Djokovic moved into his eighth semi-final at The Championships on Wednesday with a victory over Nishikori, the No. 24 seed from Japan, in 2hours and 35 minutes. The Serbian, who retired in the 2017 Wimbledon quarter-finals with a right elbow injury against Tomas Berdych that resulted in a six-month injury lay-off, is returning to peak form at just the right time. Djokovic lost just eight of his first-service points (52/61) and won 18 of his 20 points at the net against Nishikori. “I think we were quite even until the middle of the third set, then I managed to step up and play up a gear,” said Djokovic. “I ended this match really well.” Djokovic highlighted his growing confidence and tremendous athleticism from the front and back of the Centre Court, in the fourth game at 15/30, when a forehand down the line left Nishikori lunging for the ball. Two points later, Nishikori mis-timed a deep backhand, which clipped the baseline, to give Djokovic a 3:1 advantage. But the Serbian struck a double fault in the next game to hand the break back to Nishikori. Nishikori, who set up his favoured backhand stroke down the line with serves out wide, particularly on the Ad-court, got back to 3-all, but subtle changes of groundstroke pace by Djokovic reaped dividends in the eighth game. The 38-minute set ended with Nishikori committing a backhand error. Nishikori came through a 10-minute first game in the second set, then began to change his approach by coming to the net against one of the sport’s greatest returners. He earned a confidence boost by recovering from 0/40 at 1-all, much to the frustration of Djokovic, who received a code violation for racquet abuse. Having battled to two service holds in 17 minutes, Nishikori was gifted a 3:1 lead, courtesy of his Serbian opponent attempting to hit a sliced drop shot into the net. Djokovic tightened up his game, putting Nishikori under pressure, but could not make the breakthrough. Djokovic proved to be adept at the net and quick on approach in the third set, when he highlighted his mental capabilities and flexibility in recovering from 0/40 at 2-all. The 31-year-old capitalised on early fatigue from Nishikori, letting out a roar when he broke the Japanese for 30 for a 4:2 advantage and won eight of the next nine points to dominate. “I think that was the biggest chance I had,” said Nishikori, when asked about the fifth game of the third set. “But he played three great points. Maybe things change if I got the game. I mean, he was also playing great tennis. I know it’s not going to be easy holding my serve, even after I break him, but after that he was playing better. I think he was playing more aggressive and didn’t give me any free points.” Nishikori bounced back by breaking in the first game of the fourth set, but it only heightened Djokovic’s motivation and soon the Serbian couldn’t miss, forcing Nishikori to strike one extra ball in their baseline rallies. From 0:1, a fired up Djokovic won 16 of the next 20 points with exceptional hitting. Djokovic struck his 39th winner – a forehand – on approach to the net for victory.
* Djokovic vs. Nishikori and Nadal vs Del Potro on Centre Court, Anderson vs Federer and Isner vs Raonic on Court No. 1