Wimbledon: Nadal plays marathon match to win in five set nail-biter
Juan Martin Del Potro and Rafael Nadal put on an amazing thriller at the championships Wimbledon Wednesday night. In a match that saw all drama, nail-biting moments and extreme talent over the course of a few hours, the second seed came out victorious in a 7-5, 6-7(7), 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 match on centre court at the All England Club in London. It was the third grass court win for Nadal that would put him back into the semifinals for the first time since 2011.
The world number two had the Argentinian beaten 10 of their last 15 matches with two of them coming on grass. They met in 2011 where it took Nadal four sets to down the 29-year-old. While he’s only dropped a set recently against Gilles Simon, Nadal has been near perfect in his quest to gain a third Wimbledon championship. He would no doubt give it all he has to take down Del Potro quickly.
The first set didn’t see either get a lead on the other as they held serve through the first few games with Nadal taking a point each time. They went clear through seven games before the first indication of a break arrived. Nadal gained two points on Del Potro's service but watched him back to force deuce and stay on serve. The pace continued on to a five-all tie with Nadal looking for the moment he could overtake the Argentinian.
After holding it together in the 11th, Nadal reached set point in the 12th with Del Potro under pressure. A long ball return from the Spaniard forced deuce but after one break, Del Potro errored to bring the set to a close after 54 minutes. Both had bad return games against one another but the difference came on Nadal's second serve where he scored six of eight against Del Potro's 9 of 17.
His conduction of the offence had him once again leading the Argentinian into the second set with Del Potro never falling behind. They remained even through the first few games showing no drop of composure after 90 minutes of play. After eight, the time came for Del Potro to make a change in control as he gained two break points on Nadal to win the ninth on a shot return wide to the right.
It was his first of the match giving him a chance to level up things with the Spaniard. Nadal denied him that chance as the world number two forced a five-all tie that soon led them to a tiebreak. Nadal stayed calm and collected to do what he could to steal points away from the 29-year-old earning set point with a three-point lead in the tiebreak. He lost all of them with the last going on a rare double fault. It opened the door for Del Potro to get a short lead to take the pressure to Nadal and even the match at one all after 66 minutes elapsed.
With the win, Del Potro conducted the start of the third set leading the way with a hold in the opening game. Nadal levelled the score and continued on despite a clean serve to love for the Argentinean in the sixth.
He answered every point that Del Potro put together leading them to another four-all tie with the Spaniard hunting for a break. He never had a chance in the ninth as one error was all it took to spoil at the chance to gain control. Del Potro made him pay for it scoring three set point before taking the time to lay one just inside the baseline to take a 2-1 set lead.
With two hours in the books, the competition took a break with Del Potro asking for a sandwich from his coach which was obliged while Nadal went for a wardrobe change. They began with the Argentinian holding serve in the first followed by Nadal showing no signs of trouble.
He stayed right on Del Potro's tail before he went for it in the fifth with the fifth seed committing two errors off the forehand giving Nadal three set points. Another forehand error gave Nadal the lead as it looked like Del Potro was running into problems.
He managed to not let Nadal get any more room but was once again trailing the Spaniard as the world number two rolled toward evening the match. The number two seed rallied to 40-0 love but gave up a point on a backhand error. He managed to hold it together to complete 3 hours and 36 minutes to initiate a fifth and final set.
The Argentine served to open scoring followed by Nadal who scored a serve to love on his turn. Just when it looked like that would be another big highlight of the match, Del Potro had a better one at 30 all in a 26 shot rally.
The 29-year-old jumped at a return he got his racket on that landed inside Nadal's end amazing the crowd. Every game became intense but as the fifth got into play, a break for Nadal came playing three breaks with Del Potro before capturing the win with a backhand error from his opponent.
He gained a two-game buffer for the first time since the last set but wasn’t out of trouble. Del Potro delivered a service hold with a return error landing wide on the forehand keeping him a game down of the Spaniard.
Control was once again challenged by the Argentine in the eighth as he took Nadal to deuce which had them in a tug of war for the AD point. After six breaks, 19 points and 13 minutes, the win went to Nadal who made a dramatic run at the ball to somehow still get it inside for a 5-3 lead.
Del Potro was nearing his end with very little options left for him but came out scoring his first point on a 106 mph ace. He put down another one for good measure before securing another serve to love on his 33rd ace of the match. While it was nothing short of impressive, he faced Nadal's service game for the match in which he had his return challenged which was long of the baseline.
He made up for it with big responses on the return game right before he levelled at 30 all. Nadal answered back scoring a key point for match point which he redirected on a cross court net front shot just as Del Potro lost his footing and fell to the ground. It brought a close to 4 hours and 47 minutes in what was a 71 minute set by itself.
"It was a very emotional match," Nadal said to the BBC during his off-court interview. "To be back in the semi-finals here at Wimbledon, it is an amazing feeling."
Both athletes tallied 340 combined points, 145 winners and 86 unforced errors. When it came to the serves, Nadal had his well under lock scoring 74 percent. While a very tough opponent was no longer on the horizon, Nadal would again face Novak Djokovic in what remained as the battle of the titans of tennis on Friday.