Rafael Nadal reaches Wimbledon quarter-finals after straight-sets win over Botic van de Zandschulp… with the Spanish veteran still on course for his 23rd major and a Calendar Slam
- Rafael Nadal has reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals after Monday’s win
- The Spaniard beat Botic van de Zandschulp 6-4 6-2 7-6 (8-6) on Centre Court
- The 36-year-old legend is chasing a third British Grand Slam career title
- The 36-year-old will face Taylor Fritz in the last eight of the competition
Eight games into his early-evening stroll, Rafael Nadal was briefly interrupted by three green parrots circling over Centre Court. A couple of hours later, there were orange feathers all over the place.
Botic van de Zandschulp, the Dutch 21st seed, had arrived at this last-16 clash on a sharp trajectory, but it was his misfortune to step into the path of a bull moving at ever greater speeds through the men’s draw.
There will come a time when this old Spaniard with the iffy feet won’t keep doing what he does – not even he can win that rally. But while such logic sharpens the urgency to see him while you can, applicable to both people and birds, it would seem to ignore just how far he is operating outside all other conventional wisdoms.
Rafael Nadal has cruised into the Wimbledon quarter-finals after Monday afternoon’s win
The Spaniard eased past Botic van de Zandschulp in a 6-4 6-2 7-6 (8-6) win on Centre Court
Indeed, it is bordering on the absurd to note how, at the age of 36, Nadal is tearing through a season that might soon be considered his most remarkable. Within it, he is also gaining formidable momentum on his first trip here for three years, with his destruction of Van de Zandschulp raising the possibility of a third Slam in 2022 and the 23rd of his career.
You would still make Novak Djokovic the strong favourite to be the last man standing. But after questionable performances in the opening two rounds, Nadal has started to look awfully strong, first against Lorenzo Sonego on Saturday and then in how he dominated Van de Zandschulp. Barring wobbles in the third set, when the second seed was broken twice, he was utterly dominant.
True, it was never a match you would expect him to lose. But quite aside from the increased purity of his hitting, Nadal is moving extremely well for a player with chronic foot pain, and his comfort on grass is only growing now that the courts are wearing thin and slowing up.
Nadal will face American player Taylor Fritz (pictured) in the last eight of the competition
With Taylor Fritz up next – the American 11th seed who beat Nadal in the final at Indian Wells earlier this season – the challenges will soon get harder. But Nadal is starting to strike a confident tone.
‘The positive thing is the first two matches haven’t been good and then two games at a high level,’ he said. ‘The improvement is there and I’m happy to be back in the quarter-finals after three years without playing here.
‘It is going to be a tough quarter-final. But at the same time we are in quarter-finals, so you can’t expect an easy opponent out there.’
Nadal strolled past Lorenzo Sonego in the third round to set up match with van Zandschulp
van de Zandschulp (pictured) was cheered on by the crowd but always faced an uphill battle
Giving some credit to Van de Zandschulp, he was tough for a time, but after being broken at 5-4 in the first set he wilted altogether in the second.
His struggles to manage the occasion perhaps signified the scale of his rise as a player who was outside the top 50 until January of this year.
He stirred in the third with a break to go 1-0 up, and again at 5-4 down, but for all his resistance Nadal took the tiebreak 8-6. He is getting closer.
Nadal is hoping to win Wimbledon for the first time since his 2010 success over Tomáš Berdych
The 36-year-old lies on his back after slipping during a shot midway through the third set
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