Rafael Nadal Outlasts Del Potro In Wimbledon Epic
Rafael Nadal battled hard and produced his best tennis to beat Juan Martin Del Potro in a remarkable five-set clash on Centre Court.
Rafael Nadal edged out Juan Martin Del Potro 7-5 6-7(7) 4-6 6-4 6-4 in an amazing Centre Court encounter that lasted almost five hours.
The win earns the Spaniard, 32, a place in the last four at Wimbledon for the first time since 2011. He will now take on Novak Djokovic in the second semi-final on Friday.
The first set was very tight, but Nadal did most things a little bit better than Del Potro and in the end that made the difference.
He served superbly and won 24 of the 32 points played on his serve. This meant that the Argentine never had a chance to break and only got to deuce once when he was returning.
By contrast, the Spaniard successfully attacked Del Potro’s second serve and won 42% of the points against it.
This pressure enabled Nadal to earn two break points in game eight. But the Argentine saved one by outlasting the Spaniard in an excellent rally and the other with a superb cross-court forehand that the World No.1 was unable to return.
However, Nadal gained two more break points in game twelve. And this time he took the second of them when Del Potro hit a backhand into the net.
Del Potro gains the upper hand
The second set was even closer as neither player gave an inch in the first eight games. Both the Argentine and the Spaniard served superbly and held with ease to make it 4-4.
Then Del Potro made his move. He put Nadal under pressure and the World No.1 made four uncharacteristic forehand errors to drop his serve for the first time in the match.
Unfortunately for the World No.4, he failed to serve it out. He double-faulted to gift the Spaniard a break-back point and Nadal seized his moment with a forehand winner down the line.
Both players held to force a tie-break, and the World No.1 looked set to win it when he earned an early mini-break. He came up with a brilliant backhand return that Del Potro had to stretch for, and the Argentine hit a forehand just long to go 2-1 down.
Nadal’s advantage soon became 6-5, and he had the chance to serve for the point he needed to go two sets up. Remarkably, he double-faulted, and three points later Del Potro crunched a forehand winner to level the match.
The pattern of serving dominance continued in the third set. Despite some entertaining rallies, neither player faced a break point until the tenth game.
Then the Spaniard faltered. He made three errors to hand the Argentine three set points. But Del Potro only needed one of them. He slammed a forehand winner down the line to go two sets to one up.
Nadal roars back
However, Nadal is not a 17-time Grand Slam champion for nothing. He drew on all his qualities and all his experience to play a near-perfect fourth set.
The Spaniard held twice with ease and then broke to Del Potro to love in the fifth game. He almost broke the Argentine again in game nine, but the World No.4 saved two break points to keep the set alive.
It did not stay that way for long, as Nadal served out the set with ease. During it, he had won 20 out of 26 points on serve, hit 13 winners and made just three unforced errors.
Del Potro faced a difficult time on serve early in the decider. He survived a nine-minute game to establish a 2-1 lead as the Spaniard tried everything to break.
The Argentine then took Nadal to deuce but he could not force break point as the World No.1 held firm. And Del Potro’s own serve was soon under pressure again.
The Spaniard strained every sinew to hammer huge groundstrokes into every part of the court. He was rewarded with two break points.
Perhaps Nadal tried a little too hard to win the first one. Del Potro hit a cross-court short-angle forehand and the Spaniard returned it. He then tried to turn quickly to reach the next ball and fell backwards onto the grass.
The World No.1 briefly looked annoyed, but shrugged it off to slam a cross-court backhand winner past the Argentine and seal a vital break.
Nadal’s advantage almost vanished in the next game, but he dug in to save two break points and open up a 4-2 lead.
Del Potro fights but Nadal holds on
Del Potro refused to give in. He hit a brilliant forehand on the run to earn a break point in game eight, and then almost managed to a get a backhand volley over the net at full stretch.
It developed into an epic game that lasted nearly 15 minutes. The Argentine gained two more break points but the Spaniard battled hard and saved them both before whipping in a forehand winner to make it 5-3.
After 292 extraordinary minutes on court, Nadal clinched victory with a backhand volley into the open court as Del Potro slipped again.
The Spaniard then showed his class after a brief celebration. He went over and hugged the Argentine as both players realised what an incredible match they had just shared.
“It was a very emotional match,” Nadal said in his post-match interview. “I think it was great-quality tennis, especially in the last set when there were some amazing points.”
“I feel sorry for Juan-Martin. He’s an amazing opponent and an amazing player, and in some ways he deserved the victory too. Last year I lost a match like this, but today it went for me.”
The Spaniard continued: “It’s a great feeling (to win), and it’s a very important achievement for me to be back in the Wimbledon semi-final.”