Former champs through, Kyrgios wins five-set epic


Former Wimbledon champions Rafa Nadal and Simona Halep are through to the quarterfinals with commanding victories, while Nick Kyrgios advanced after a five-set epic despite problems with his shoulder.

Second seed Nadal, who is halfway to a calendar slam, brushed aside Dutchman Botic van de Zandschulp 6-4 6-2 7-6(6) on Monday to become the last player to reach the last-eight.

Rafael Nadal has so far won twice at Wimbledon. Photo: Reuters
Rafael Nadal has so far won twice at Wimbledon. Photo: Reuters
The All England Club, where the Spaniard has won two of his 22 majors, has been the least rewarding place for Nadal but he arrived this year having won the Australian and French Open titles back-to-back for the first time in his career.

A third Wimbledon title and first since 2010 on the manicured lawns and a U.S. Open triumph would see the Mallorcan claim the calendar slam - a feat last achieved in 1969 by Australian great Rod Laver.

He will face American 11th seed Taylor Fritz for a place in Friday's semi-finals.

"To be in the quarter-finals here at Wimbledon after three years without playing here, it's amazing for me," said Nadal. "So very, very happy."

After saving the first break point on his serve in the opening game of the second set, Nadal breached Van de Zandschulp's delivery in the next to take the lead early with two consecutive errors from the Dutchman.

A double fault in the eighth game from Van de Zandschulp gifted Nadal a double break and with it the second set.

A wild forehand saw Nadal suffer his first break at the start of the third. But the joy for the Dutchman and the crowd's hopes of an extended contest were short-lived as the left-hander immediately broke back.

An incredible backhand pass on the stretch brought up a break of serve for Nadal in the sixth game and the delighted Spaniard celebrated with a number of fist pumps.

Serving for the match at 5-3 the 36-year-old Spaniard got broken again as Van de Zandschulp forced a tiebreak. But Nadal found the edge, earning a crucial mini break by winning a 30-shot rally -- the longest in the match -- that got the crowd on their feet.

 

Halep was expected to be tested by Spanish fourth seed Paula Badosa but the Romanian needed just an hour to win 6-1 6-2 as the 16th seed looks to reclaim her crown at the All England Club after her triumph in 2019.

The 16th-seeded Romanian put on another show for the crowd, smashing  smashed 17 winners, kept a tab on her errors and broke Badosa's serve five times to close out the victory in an hour.

"It was the place that I wanted to be today. I think I played a great match," said Halep.

"It's always tough to play against her, she's a great player. Always nervous before, but I enjoyed a lot to be back on Centre Court, in front of this beautiful crowd, always supporting me. It's a pleasure to be back here."

Halep has been flying under the radar at the 2022 Championships but is now considered a serious title contender as the only former champion left in the draw and with 11 straight wins on the All England Club's manicured lawns.

Kyrgios has stunned the field to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2014 but the Australian was made to work for his 4-6 6-4 7-6(2) 3-6 6-2 victory over American Brandon Nakashima.

Although Kyrgios called for the physio to treat his shoulder midway through the contest, he still managed to fire 79 winners to advance. He is the only Australian left in the men's draw after Alex de Minaur and Jason Kubler were knocked out.

While qualifier Kubler lost in straight sets to American Taylor Fritz, who now meets Nadal, De Minaur went to five against Chile's Cristian Garin, who saved two match points to win 2-6 5-7 7-6(3) 6-4 7-6(6). He next plays Kyrgios.

But Australia will also have a women's quarter-finalist after Ajla Tomljanovic beat Frenchwoman Alize Cornet in three sets and she will play big-serving Kazakh 17th seed Elena Rybakina who beat Croat Petra Martic.

Kyrgios said after his match a "lot of people will be upset" after he reached the quarter-finals with a thoroughly professional five-set win. The 27-year-old Australian's fiery third-round win over Stefanos Tsitsipas led to his opponent branding him a bully with an evil side as again Kyrgios's antics polarised opinion.

Forty-eight hours later, however, Kyrgios was a model of maturity, barely uttering a word in anger as he shrugged off a stiff shoulder and not having his A-game to reach his third Grand Slam quarter-final.

Asked how he had shrugged off fierce criticism aimed his way by people such as former champion and fellow Australian Pat Cash in the wake of his toxic victory over Greek Tsitsipas, Kyrgios said he just laughed it off.

"It's so funny. I joke around with my team about it so much. It's hilarious," Kyrgios, who will contest his first Wimbledon quarter-final since his debut in 2014, told reporters.

"I almost just wake up and read things, and I just laugh. And I never forget things, whether it was three, four years ago, things that just stick with me. I have a massive chip on my shoulder. Like I sit here now in quarter-finals Wimbledon again, and I just know there's so many people that are so upset."

While some will be disappointed to see him through, there is no doubt that when he is focused on his tennis, the mercurial Australian is extremely entertaining.

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