Rafael Nadal is through to his eighth Wimbledon semi-final following a memorable triumph over Taylor Fritz in four hours and 20 minutes. Alongside an inspired rival, Rafa had to deal with an abdominal injury that almost forced him to retire after the third set.
Nadal continued and prevailed in the following two sets to emerge at the top 3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 and remain on the title course. On Thursday, Rafa checked the injury and found it was a seven-millimeter tear, a worrying sign ahead of his Friday's semi-final clash versus Nick Kyrgios.
Nadal has not played at his best since the start of the tournament, barely practicing his serve and struggling against lower-ranked opponents. Now, he faces a dangerous rival in a battle for the final, and he will try to step on the court on Friday and present his best tennis.
Rafa and Taylor won 168 points each, hit the same number of winners and faced 14 break chances.
Rafael Nadal deals with a seven-millimeter abdominal tear.
The youngster gave everything to bring the victory home, opening two sets to one lead before losing ground in the closing stages of sets four and five.
Nadal made a good start against Fritz and forged a 3-1 lead. Taylor bounced back, grabbed breaks in games six and eight and rattled off five straight games to clinch the opener 6-3. The Spaniard led 3-0 in the second set before the American erased the deficit.
They stayed neck and neck until game 12, when Taylor served to stay in the set. Rafa broke him with a volley winner at the net to wrap up the set and improve his chances. The American played well in the third set, keeping his serve safe and breaking Rafa in games three and nine to build a massive advantage.
Nadal spoke with the doctor and decided to continue and at least try to finish the duel without retiring. The rivals traded three breaks at the start of the set, and Rafa grabbed two. He found himself 4-2 ahead after a comfortable hold before Fritz broke in game eight and locked the result at 4-4.
The Spaniard forced the rival's mistake in the 11th game to move 6-5 ahead and held at love with a forehand winner in the next one to force a decider. Both players served well at the start of the fifth set before Rafa converted the fourth break chance with a drop shot winner for 4-3.
Taylor broke back in the next one and moved 5-4 up with a backhand crosscourt winner. Rafa served to stay in the match and landed a perfect volley winner at the net for 5-5. Fritz grabbed the 11th game with an ace down the T line, and Nadal held at love with a service winner to resist and introduce the deciding tie break.
Rafa moved 3-0 up with a forced error before Taylor reduced the deficit to 5-3. Nadal gained a 7-3 lead after an extended rally and a volley winner. A forehand down the line winner at 8-3 offered Nadal six match points, and he seized the second with a forehand winner to emerge at the top.