Nadal sparks withdrawal fears ahead of Kyrgios semi

Winning from abdominal pain, unable to ply his customary relentless style of tennis, Rafael Nadal worried that he might need to stop playing in the Wimbledon quarterfinals against Taylor Fritz.

Up in the Center Court stands, Nadal’s father was waving his arms, motioning to the 22-time Grand Slam champion to quit. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the kid didn’t listen. Nadal stayed out there, adjusted his service motion and his strategy — and figured out a way to win.

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With much of the crowd roaring and standing after Nadal’s best strokes, he twice erased one-set deficits against the 11th-seeded Fritz and emerged with 3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (10 -4) victory to reach his eighth semifinal at the All England Club.

“For a lot of moments,” Nadal said, “I was thinking, ‘Maybe I will not be able to finish the match.’”

He got to his 38th career major semifinal by denying what would have been a first such appearance for Fritz, a 24-year-old American who defeated Nadal in the final at Indian Wells, California, in March. That ended a 20-match winning streak for Nadal, who was bothered that day by a painful rib injury.

This time, the problem was a muscle in his stomach area, which had some athletic tape, as was also the case for Nadal’s fourth-round match Monday, when he declined to discuss it.

Kyrgios through to Wimbledon seeding

Nadal left the court with a trainer for a medical timeout while up 4-3 in the second set; Fritz paced around the baseline waiting for action to resume.

When it did, Nadal clearly was compromised. It was hard not to think: Might he give up? Nadal acknowledged that went through his mind. Perhaps that was in Fritz’s, too, because his level of play slipped precipitously for stretches.

He pretty much handed over the second set of what would become a 4-hour, 21-minute contest under a sky of slate clouds. After Fritz took the third set, his big serve got broken three times in the next.

Insane winner sets up break for Kyrgios

Nadal occasionally would watch a ball off Fritz’s orange racket fly by. 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.

“A tough afternoon. Not an easy match at all,” Nadal said. “In the abdominal, something is not going well.”

Still, he summoned his best for last, grabbing a 5-0 lead in the closing tiebreaker — the first-to-10, win-by-two format starting at 6-all in a fifth set is new to Wimbledon this year — and then five of the last six points. By doing so, 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, the 27-year-old Australian who will be making his Grand Slam semi-final debut after a 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (5) victory over Cristian Garin of Chile.

Asked to look ahead to facing Kyrgios, Nadal began with this ominous-sounding statement: “I hope to be ready to play.”

The Spaniard admitted it’s unknown whether he’ll be fit enough to play after suffering the “worst” day with his new abdomen injury.

He continued: “I need to be at 100 percent to keep having chances and that’s what I’m going to try to do.”

The other men’s semifinal will be No. 1 Novak Djokovic against No. 9 Cam Norrie.

The women’s semifinals 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.

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