Nadal survives 5 sets; Venus rolls
Vail, CO Colroado
WIMBLEDON, England ” Erasing a two-set deficit despite playing on a fourth consecutive day, Rafael Nadal came back to beat Mikhail Youzhny in five sets Thursday and reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals.
Nadal, the 2006 runner-up, picked up early service breaks in each of the final three sets to win 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2.
“After the first two sets, the next three sets maybe I play my best game on grass in my life,” Nadal said.
Venus Williams had a much easier time Thursday, playing outstanding tennis to reach the semifinals by beating No. 5 Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 6-4. Williams will next face French Open finalist Ana Ivanovic, who defeated No. 14 Nicole Vaidisova 4-6, 6-2, 7-5.
Ivanovic saved three match points and beginning with the last one, won 13 of 15 points. That sent her on her way to taking the match’s last four games. It ended when Vaidisova double-faulted for the sixth time.
“I knew I could do it,” Ivanovic said. “I knew I could make some good shots and be aggressive and move forward and put pressure.”
Youzhny, one of only three players to have beaten Nadal twice in the last year, struggled midway through his match with pain in his lower back.
He called for a trainer after losing the third set. Lying on his stomach, the Russian got his lower back massaged. After the fifth game of the fourth set, he was again on the ground with the trainer stretching his back.
Nadal’s third-round match, which was supposed to begin Saturday, didn’t finish until Wednesday. The three-time French Open champion failed to convert his first match point Monday, and had to wait until Wednesday to get another because of rain delays.
Nadal is trying to become the first man to win the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year since Bjorn Borg in 1980.
“With every win you improve the confidence on every surface,” Nadal said. “But especially if you are playing like today.”
In the quarterfinals, the second-seeded Spaniard will face No. 7 Tomas Berdych, who beat Jonas Bjorkman 6-4, 6-0, 6-7 (6), 6-0.
No. 10 Marcos Baghdatis, who lost to Nadal in last year’s semifinals, advanced by beating No. 6 Nikolay Davydenko 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5), 6-3 in the fourth round. He will next play No. 4 Novak Djokovic, who beat 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt 7-6 (8), 7-6 (2), 4-6, 7-6 (5).
There was one brief rain delay on some courts Thursday, meaning it’s drizzled on nine of the tournament’s 10 days. But Wimbledon referee Andrew Jarrett was confident the tournament would finish on time.
“We can still finish on Sunday,” Jarrett said. “That is what we’ll plan for and what we’re aiming for.”
Williams, a three-time champion at the All England Club, has been dominating on her serve in the last two rounds, and she again did what was needed to earn enough breaks to advance.
“My return is very, very solid,” Williams said. “That helps me and puts a lot of pressure on their service game.”
Williams had three aces, and 2004 U.S. Open champion Kuznetsova failed to put another 21 serves into play. The American won 76 percent of the points played on her first serve, averaging 109 mph.
Her only struggle came when serving for the match. Leading 40-0, Williams lost four straight points and faced a break point. But she fought back and won when Kuznetsova sent a forehand long ” the Russian’s 24th unforced error.
“At the end I was able to stay tough against a great opponent,” Williams said. “I felt so motivated, sure about my game.”
Williams started the season with a wrist injury and is not even ranked in the top 30. Seeded only No. 23 at the All England Club, she struggled early in the tournament, needing three sets to beat 59th-ranked Alla Kudryavtseva in the first round and coming within two points of defeat against 71st-ranked Akiko Morigami in the third.
“I really did play two good players who were on,” Williams said.
Williams was broken once Thursday, but the five-time Grand Slam champion responded by breaking back against Kuznetsova at love.
On Wednesday, she easily beat 2004 champion Maria Sharapova in a match that started Tuesday but was suspended for the night after only three points were played.