In the end, Rafael Nadal and Taylor Frtiz won 168 points each in the quarter-finals clash at Wimbledon 2022. There was nothing to separate here, but this is the statistical oddity of tennis, where even winning more points doesn’t always guarantee you a victory. Although they won an equal number of points, Nadal won more important points in the game more often than Fritz and made his way to Wimbledon’s semi-final.
Throughout the game, Nadal battled a terrible abdominal injury, saw his service game blunted, and his much-famed court coverage dropping down to a level where he wouldn’t even make a half-hearted effort to return the net points. Nadal was in pain, as he has always been throughout his career. Before a 6ft 5in towering American opponent standing on the other side of the net, he had his own body to fight.
At one point in the game, his father, Sebastian, made a sweeping hand motion toward his son to abandon the game. Even when his son was winning points, there was hardly any smile on Sebastian’s face. For a while, it felt Nadal might take heed. He was barely able to serve, and seemed totally uninterested in extending the rallies. He kept going for a winner, even if the margin of such shots were incredibly low. If Nadal has to survive, forget win, this was going to be the way.
It was not just about the Wimbledon championship. Having won the first two grand slams of the year, Nadal is halfway through to becoming the first man after Rod Laver to win calendar grand slams. He was just two games away from making it three in a row. The magnitude of this glory outweighed the act of self-preservation.
The injection he took after losing the first set numbed his entire body. He was no longer able to feel the pain. But there was not much difference in the game. His serve game lost its edge, as Nadal was just trying to put the ball into the box. He was able to put in just so much effort that allowed him to stay in the game. But things changed in the tie-break, where he raced away to 4-0 and then finished the game at 10-4.
“I enjoy a lot playing these kind of matches,” Nadal said. “It was a tough afternoon against a great player. It was not easy at all, I’m just very happy to be in the semi-finals. The abdominal is not going well. I had to find a way to serve a little bit different. For a moment I thought I might not be able to finish the match.”
Featured Image Credit: Wimbledon 2022