London, Jul 6 (EFE).- Rafael Nadal battled through an abdominal injury that nearly forced him to retire from his Wimbledon quarterfinal match on Wednesday, overcoming the pain to edge American Taylor Fritz 3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (10-4) and book a spot in the final four at the All England Club for the eighth time in his illustrious career.
The Spanish great’s father and sister, seeing that Nadal was experiencing discomfort and unable to serve normally, both urged him to stop at one juncture.
But the winner of a record 22 Grand Slam singles titles soldiered on when almost no one else would have, rallying from a set down on two occasions and shaking off a blown lead in the fifth set to finally pull away in the deciding super-tiebreaker.
Wednesday’s match marked the second time this year that Nadal took the court against Fritz despite physical problems.
The fourth-ranked Spaniard was hindered by a fractured rib against the American in the Indian Wells final in March, after which Nadal was away from the ATP Tour for more than six weeks.
The two-time Wimbledon champion’s strong play in two matches prior to Wednesday indicated he was fully healthy, but his reluctance to answer questions about strapping on his abdomen after his fourth-round victory signaled that something was amiss.
On Wednesday, Nadal rode an early service break to a 3-1 lead before the wheels suddenly came off, with the 14th-ranked Fritz finding the range on his serve and ground strokes to reel off five straight games and claim the first set.
That early dip in form was surprising but there was still no sign of an injury problem until a few games later, when Nadal showed clear signs of discomfort, lost all explosiveness on his serve and then sank down in his chair after squandering an early service break for the second straight set.
The 36-year-old Spaniard called for the trainer and a few minutes of uncertainty ensued, especially after his father and sister seemed to be urging him to retire from the match.
But Nadal proceeded to leave the court to receive treatment in the locker room for his abdominal injury. A few minutes later, he returned to the court, picked up his racket and began fighting to win the second set.
By adjusting his service motion the Spaniard was able to endure the pain and stay alive, including saving a break point in the seventh game to move ahead 4-3.
Then with Fritz serving at 5-6, Nadal won the first point of that game after drawing the American in to the net with a drop shot and used that tactic successfully again on set point, which he won with a backhand volley winner.
But more ups and downs were still to come in this roller-coaster contest.
Fritz struck back with an early service break in the third set and then clinched the set with another break when Nadal, still serving gingerly, whipped a forehand wide of the sideline.
The fourth set featured several service breaks, with Nadal unable to serve at his highest level and Fritz struggling to hold against one of tennis’ all-time great returners.
The Spaniard appeared to be on the ropes when Fritz overcame a 3-1 deficit to draw level at 4-4 and then, a game later, hit an inside-out forehand on the line to save a break point and then nudge ahead 5-4.
But Nadal produced more of his legendary clutch play to overcome his injury and an inspired opponent, breaking serve in the 11th game and then holding serve at love to force a fifth set.
In the deciding set, the Spaniard seemed to strike the crushing blow when the combination of a huge forehand down-the-line and a delicate backhand drop shot winner on break point gave him a 4-3 lead.
But he then lost serve for the eighth time in the match a game later and fell behind 5-4 when Fritz fired a backhand crosscourt winner.
Nadal wasn’t about to go down tamely though after making it this far, managing to win his last two service games to force a deciding super-tiebreaker.