August 16, 2022

Rafael Nadal shrugged off fresh concerns over his fitness as he aimed for a place in the semi-finals of Wimbledon on Wednesday.

The 36-year-old Spaniard played his last All England Club clash against Botic van de Zandschulp on Monday with a strapping on his abdomen.

Only last month he won a 14th French Open with his troublesome left foot anesthetized before undergoing life-saving treatment.

Nadal declined to comment on whether his latest physical issue was a concern or not.

“I’m a little tired of talking about my body, about all the problems I have. I prefer not to talk about it now,” Nadal said.

“All due respect to the rest of the opponents. At the moment I’m healthy enough to continue and fight for the things I want.”

Nadal is halfway to the first Grand Slam on the calendar by a man since Rod Laver in 1969.

After needing four sets in each of the first two rounds to progress, Nadal has since looked impressive, overtaking Lorenzo Sonego and Van de Zandschulp to advance to the quarter-finals for the eighth time.

On Wednesday, he will look to reach the semi-finals, also for the eighth time, against the in-form Taylor Fritz.

The American is in the last eight of a Slam for the first time and has yet to drop a set.

The 24-year-old beat Nadal in the Indian Wells Masters final earlier this year as the Spaniard suffered from a cracked rib.

– “Play more freely” –

The loss ended his 20-game winning streak and forced him to take a six-week rest before the clay-court season.

Fritz, whose mother played at Wimbledon in 1977, said facing Nadal meant all-out attack.

“I don’t really question shots like I would if I’m playing against someone I’m supposed to beat,” he said.

“I might think, Do I have to go, do I have to play it safe? Against someone like Rafa, it’s easy to always take the decision aggressively and play more freely.”

In the semi-finals, the controversial Australian Nick Kyrgios or the Chilean Cristian Garin will wait.

Despite the presence of Nadal and six-time champion Novak Djokovic in the draw, Kyrgios arguably grabbed the headlines.

He is back in the Wimbledon quarter-finals for the first time since 2014 when he mocked his world No. 144 ranking to stun Nadal.

The 27-year-old reached the quarter-finals after facing two spectators in five sets, delighted and bewildered while being fined $14,000.

He also featured jaw-dropping shots, pushing his aces past the 100 mark and reaching a total of 257 winners in four rounds.

– “People upset” –

“I’m sitting here again in the Wimbledon quarter-finals, and I just know there are so many people who are so upset,” Kyrgios said.

Garin, ranked 43rd, saved two match points to beat Australia’s Alex de Minaur in a grueling round of 16 draw that lasted four hours and 34 minutes.

In the women’s quarterfinals, 2019 champion Simona Halep takes on Amanda Anisimova of the United States.

Halep, who works with former Serena Williams coach Patrick Mouratoglou, lost just three games to defeat fourth-seeded Paula Badosa in the final round.

The Romanian missed the 2021 Championships through injury but is showing up in worrying form at the All England Club, advancing to the quarter-finals for the fifth time.

Anisimova is back in the last eight of a Slam for the first time since reaching the French Open semi-finals in 2019 after beating Halep in the quarter-finals.

Halep beat the American on grass in Bad Homburg last month.

In the other quarter-final of the day, Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic will face Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan.

Tomljanovic also made the last eight in 2021 where she was beaten by eventual champion Ashleigh Barty.

Russian-born Rybakina didn’t drop a set as she made her second Grand Slam quarter-final after also reaching the last eight at the 2021 French Open.

– ‘It’s a gift’ –

Standing 1.84 meters (six feet), Rybakina, who still lives in Moscow, has beaten 29 aces at the tournament so far.

In Monday’s win over Petra Martic, she landed the tournament’s second fastest serve – 122 miles (196 kilometers) per hour.

“I’ve never compared myself to anyone. I just know I have this gift. I’m tall and I play really fast,” Rybakina said.

dj/pi