This content was published 14 years ago. It may refer to a past edition of the Internazionali d’Italia.
It is not often that reigning champion Rafael Nadal admits to being in trouble, let alone on clay and particularly not to someone ranked outside the top 20.
That was the case on Friday evening however when Stanislas Wawrinka, the “other” Swiss player after Roger Federer, pushed him all the way for the first nine games of the opening set of their quarter-final, which the Majorcan would eventually go on to win by the comparatively clear scoreline of 6-4, 6-1.
“In the first set today I was in trouble for a long time. He was doing his serve much better than I was and I only won one point before the 5-4,” Nadal admitted. “For the whole game, my serve was hard. The important thing was that I was very concentrated because he was playing very well and perhaps better than me in the beginning. But from the 5-4, I started to play it well. I did some good drop-shots and after that I started to play very well. From the second set, I was right in the court. At the beginning I felt that every ball I was touching I was more and more behind the line but in the second set, my feeling was that I was much better with my forehand and I was able to change the direction of the ball. I was also doing much better with my backhand too.”
As is so often the way, Nadal was simply able to step up a gear when it mattered most, breaking Wawrinka to take the first set and winning eight out of the last nine games in the match. He was clearly fired up, coming to the net and dropping with aplomb, and firing down unreturnable forehands which he celebrated with the kind of fist pumps usually reserved for the later stages of Grand Slams against other Swiss opponents. Was this Nadal at the peak of his form?
“I don’t think I played my best match tonight,” said the world No.2, with his feet firmly on the ground as always. “I think that the level in Monte Carlo (where he won the ATP Masters 1000 for the loss of only 14 games all tournament) was unbelievable. The final I played unbelievably and also in the semi-final too. I played well but I was probably playing better in Monte Carlo. Yesterday probably I had amazing passages but the feeling today was better. After the first set, I played better with my forehand and the ball was higher for me and I was going to the net more. You go to the net when you are dominating the point. The first set I didn’t go to the net because I wasn’t dominating the game.”
Nadal’s victory made it three quarter-final wins out of three for Spanish players, with Feliciano Lopez still to come in the night session. Not that the Majorcan would find it difficult to take on his Davis Cup team-mates should it come to that in the semi or the final. “We know each other much better and that is the difference and we are great friends. I know what the other player is going to do – almost – and he knows what I am going to do – almost. We are close friends but when you are on the court, you are professionals. Anyway for us, even to have three Spaniards in the final of the tournament like this is unbelievable for us. If we have the fourth, then I don’t know if this makes history but that will be wonderful too.”
Ernests Gulbis had other ideas, defeating Feliciano Lopez in the last quarter-final, but at least that will give Nadal chance to exact some Spanish revenge on Saturday…