Rafael Nadal has been pushed to five sets over night to progress through his difficult quarter to secure a spot in the third round. Amusingly Nadal altered his Facebook status after the match saying “I told you it would be a difficult match!!!” His opponent, Robin Haase, sent down an incredible 28 aces during the match and worked Nadal around the court, producing some brilliant winners on the run, passing Nadal at the net which is no small feat
After falling behind two sets to one Nadal eventually ground Haase down and exhausted the way only Nadal can, winning 5-7, 6-2, 3-6, 6-0, 6-3. In the first set Haase played at an incredible level, producing 13 aces and serving at 86% compared to just 62% for Rafa, simply blasting Nadal off the court and not allowing the Spaniard much hope of breaking in the first set. Nadal was finally broken in the last game of the first set. Nadal rebounded immediately.
Rafa broke in the first game, aided by an error from Haase and a brilliant cross court passing shot, demonstrating his incredible ability to just wipe the slate clean. Nadal seemed to get a better read on Haase’s serve, allowing him to conduct rallies and work his opponent over, breaking early, before securing a double break to take the second set 6-2.
Haase has returned to the courts recently after spending almost 18 month off trying to recover from knee surgery. The Dutch player called for the trainer to have his mid foot assessed. The treatment seemed to do the trick because when they started the third set Haase made Rafa run. Robin played with some incredible depth, forcing Nadal to play defensively.
At 2-3 Nadal was working hard to try and hold, but the scrambling skills of Haase, combined with the fact Rafa failed to put away two smashes, then pushing a volley wide, gave the Dutchman a break point chance which he converted with a violently struck forehand cross court winner. He then proceeded to consolidate with a HUGE service game, barely letting Nadal touch a ball. Suddenly Nadal was serving to stay in the third set.
Rafa was off and flying in the fourth round, heaving a backhand down the line with a loud “Ya” before thumping a forehand return winner with a screaming “Si!” and a fist pump. The devastating forehand of Nadal thumped Haase and brought up two early break points which Robin successfully defended before Nadal eventually broke.
A small slip in the third game saw Hasse grimace, grab his hip flexor and try to loosen his pelvis. Nadal responded by running his opponent. Again in the third game, this time of the final set, Haase pulled up, again with the right hip flexor, when reaching for the ball.
Nadal was on fire in the fourth and fifth set and there was no stopping him. With a double break in hand Rafa finished the match off with another love service game.
Despite the fact that five sets were played Nadal was happy with the outcome. “I’m very happy to win in five sets. Everybody prefers to win in three, but is not possible a lot of times, especially in this surface because all depends on a few points. Played probably four bad points in two sets and I lose both sets. That’s the tennis like this. But mentally I think I was perfect in the fourth and in the fifth.” Impressively the Spaniard didn’t lose a point on serve in the final set and won 23 of 29 points he played at the net, showing the importance of net play on grass. He also improved to a 13-3 lifetime record in five sets
The importance of the Wimbledon title is not lost on Nadal, who chose to practice instead of meeting the Queen. “Yeah, was disappointing for me. But, you know, the Club knows, Wimbledon Club knows that before, because I have my routines before the match. I had a very difficult match, before the match, I know going to be a very difficult match. I had to practice around 12, so was impossible for me.
Seriously I thought the Queen was going to be in my match, and I would love to have the chance to meet her after the match. But wasn’t possible because I think the Queen left before. For me was disappointing. I was excited to meet her. But was very important match for me, too.”
When asked if there was anyone he would change his routine for he responded; “You know, I am playing in Wimbledon. Is not a joke. I love this tournament. I have a lot of respect for the Queen. I have a lot of respect for this tournament. Always was my dream play here. Today is a match, is a match day for me, no? So I have my things to do, and I try to do my best what I think is the best to win the match, no? So not in that case.”
Nadal with now face Philipp Petzschner on Saturday in the third round. Rafa leads their head to head 2-0 but has never played Petzchner on grass.
Federer may have also played five sets, but this was a very different five sets. Nadal looked sharp, showing that he had a few extra gears to rely on in times of trouble.