Wimbledon 2022: Regal Rafa overwhelms Van de Zandschulp to reach quarters
- Rafael Nadal beat Botic van de Zandschulp to reach quarterfinals at the 2022 Wimbledon
- He will meet 11th seed Taylor Fritz in the next round
- Nadal had lost to the American in Indian Wells previously
Rafael Nadal was entrusted with rededicating himself with the grass, a surface he had not stepped foot on in three years, as he returned to practise following the radiofrequency ablation procedure on his troublesome foot in the days immediately after his French Open victory. He stated emphatically that the early rounds of Wimbledon will be "vital."
It is reasonable to say that his life has gone smoothly. Nadal is not only still present four rounds into his Wimbledon campaign as his aim at the calendar-year grand slam persists, but he is also maturing with each match and rounding into shape. He advanced to the quarterfinals with his 18th grand slam match win in a row, defeating Botic van de Zandschulp, the 21st seed, 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 (6).
This has been a predictable procedure. Nadal dropped a set in each of his first two rounds, losing the second sets to Francisco Cerundolo and Ricardas Berankis. He has excelled since then.
Only when Nadal pulled him to the net and ordered him to dial back his grunting was there any tension in his third-round encounter against Lorenzo Sonego. On Monday, Nadal was highly efficient against a difficult opponent until jitters struck when he served for the match, but he recovered to win.
“I think I continued in a positive way,” Nadal stated. “I think, till the end, until I played a bad game at 5-3, it has been a very positive match against a difficult opponent. Botic has been improving unbelievably in the past year.”
The last several days have shown what a wonderful time it is for Dutch tennis. Tim van Rijthoven took a set off Novak Djokovic beneath the Centre Court roof on Sunday, his second career tour-level main draw, the first being his shock run to the win at 's-Hertogenbosch. In its own right, Van de Zandschulp's growth has been rapid. He had never played on grass before, and he was seeded outside of the top 100 just over a year ago. He is now rated 25th.
None of those enhancements benefited him very well in the face of Nadal's early pressure and ferocity. Nadal hit the ball cleanly and served efficiently. With his enormous repertoire of shots, he scythed the Dutchman, gliding to the net, performing drop shots, low slices, and tugging Van de Zandschulp around the court.
Nadal's form was particularly evident in how he handled his trials. When he squandered his 40-0 service game at the start of the third set, committing a lot of careless unforced errors, he instantly reclaimed it, thumping a down-the-line backhand winner and cross-court forehand winner in successive points.
When Nadal failed to serve out the match at 5-3, the momentum shifted as Van de Zanschulp used his massive serve and forehand to clinch a tie-break, but Nadal eventually recovered to win.
“In a personal way, after all the things that happened the last couple of months, to be able to be in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon after three years of not playing here is amazing for me. So very, very happy,” Nadal declared.
Rare possibilities have arisen for a variety of players in the men's draw, with more holes than normal given the absence of Russian and Belarusian players, injuries, positive Covid tests for major players, and shortfalls by several of the promising younger players. But Nadal and Djokovic are still in the draw, poised to write another chapter in the sport's history.
Nadal's next opponent will be an intriguing test that will reveal a lot about his form. Taylor Fritz, the 11th seed, has yet to drop a set in this competition, defeating Jason Kubler 6-3, 6-1, 6-4 in the quarter-finals.
Despite not having met a top-50 opponent, Fritz's confidence is comparable to that of most other challengers. After capturing the Eastbourne championship just over a week ago, he is on an eight-match winning streak, and he overcame Nadal in the Indian Wells final in March.
And though Nadal was suffering from an injured rib at the time, knowing what it's like to beat Nadal in a huge match is certainly valuable.
As night fell on Centre Court, Nadal analysed Fritz's challenge, recalling that he had lost to the American in Indian Wells. He then shrugged and remarked, “It’s gonna be a tough match, but we are in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon, so what can I expect?”