Rafael Nadal ignored requests to withdraw ahead of his brilliant return to Wimbledon

Rafael Nadal defied his family’s wishes as he battled through injury to record a remarkable five-set win over Taylor Fritz – but gave no guarantees that he will head to center court for his semi-final against Nick Kyrgios.

Nadal came into the match with an abdominal issue and looked ready to retire at times but somehow bounced back to claim a 3-6 7-5 3-6 7-5 7-6 (4) win after four hours and 20 minutes.

Spaniard Sebastian’s father gestured for his son to call it a day as he left for treatment midway through the second set, and Nadal nodded towards his box after missing the third, with Fritz apparently hoping for a handshake.

“They told me I need to retire the match, yes,” Nadal said. “It was difficult for me to retire in the middle of the match. It’s not easy, even though I’ve had this idea for so long. It’s something I hate to do. So I kept trying, and that’s it.”

The result kept Nadal’s hopes alive of becoming the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win all four Grand Slam titles in the same year, but much will depend on how he recovers in the coming days.

“Tomorrow I’m going to do some more tests,” he said. “But it’s hard to know. I’m used to having things and I’m used to holding back pain and playing with problems. Knowing that when I feel something like I did, it’s because something isn’t going right in the abdominal.

“I had these feelings for a few days. Without a doubt, today was the worst day. It was a major increase in pain and limitation.

Rafael Nadal grimaces as he struggles with injury (Adam Davy/PA)

“Nothing can be fixed when you have such a thing. I’m proud of the fighting spirit and the way I was able to be competitive in those conditions.”

Asked if he thought he would be able to face Kyrgios, Nadal said: “I need to know different opinions and I need to check everything in the right way. That’s even more important than winning Wimbledon, that’s health.”

The tape was evident in Nadal’s stomach during his fourth-round win over Botic van de Zandschulp, but there were no initial signs of discomfort as he opened up a 3-1 lead over the 24-year-old Fritz, who was playing in his first major beat the quarterfinals.

However, the American started to put a lot of pressure on Nadal’s serve and turned things around to win the first set with a streak of five straight games.

Taylor Fritz showed his frustration at not being able to find a way through his opponent

Taylor Fritz showed his frustration at not being able to find a way through his opponent (John Walton/PA)

He then regained another break early in the second, but Nadal somehow managed to win that set before hopes of a miraculous recovery faded again in the third.

Fritz, who failed to beat Novak Djokovic in a similar scenario at last year’s Australian Open, knew the match was there to be played but found himself trying to catch up on Wednesday and Nadal, who took anti-inflammatories and painkillers. , managed to level up in the decision.

“I’m playing very well,” said Nadal. “I’m really enjoying it. The level of tennis, if you take the issues out – something that is difficult – the level of tennis, the feeling I’m having with the ball in my hand is honestly great. I feel like I’m playing really well.”

Fritz ended Nadal’s 20-game winning start to the season at the Indian Wells final in March when the Spaniard struggled with a fractured rib, but emotions were very different here.

“In certain parts of the game, I felt like maybe I needed to invent more, do more,” Fritz said. “I left a lot for him, and he delivered. It was a great game. Honestly, it probably hurts more than any loss I’ve ever had.”

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