Wimbledon 2022: Rafael Nadal picking up the pace in calendar Grand Slam bid as he eyes third SW19 title

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Wimbledon 2022: Rafael Nadal picking up the pace in calendar Grand Slam bid as he eyes third SW19 title
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Slowly but surely — and three years since last playing at WimbledonRafael Nadal is laying down his credentials to push for a third SW19 title.

From previously being a doubt to take his place in the main draw because of his ongoing foot issue, he is now second favourite behind Novak Djokovic.

During his opening two matches, Nadal struggled for rhythm. Last night, against Botic van de Zandschulp, he never really looked under threat, as had been the case in the preceding round against Lorenzo Sonego.

But uncertainty remains about the foot in these final days of Wimbledon. For now, it has held up, although the Spaniard has grown bored of both dealing with it and answering questions about it.

After winning 6-4, 6-2, 7-6 on Centre Court, he said: “I am a little bit tired to talk about my body. I am tired of myself, all the issues that I am having. I prefer to not talk about that.

“But I am in the middle of the tournament and I have to keep going. I am just trying my best every single day. For the moment, I am healthy enough to keep going and fight for the things that I want.”

Nadal has very much taken a round-by-round mentality to the tournament, understandable with the issues he has had. He had nerve-numbing injections for the French Open. In the Wimbledon lead-up, he has instead had a form of heat treatment aimed at killing nerve tissue sending pain signals to the brain.

The other question in his mind is whether his form is good enough. After beating Van de Zandschlup, who in fairness pushed him in a tight final-set tiebreak, he said: “The positive thing is that the first two matches haven’t been good.

“Then, two days ago, I played at a high level for the first time. And today most of the match, again, at a very positive level. I’m happy for that.

Rafael Nadal is targeting an incredible Calendar Grand Slam (Getty Images)
Rafael Nadal is targeting an incredible Calendar Grand Slam (Getty Images)

“The improvement is there and I’m happy to be back in the quarter-finals after three years without playing here. It’s a positive result for me.”

Were it any other tournament, it is a moot point whether Nadal would have missed it altogether. But a third Wimbledon title, a possible Grand Slam No23 and the prospect of the clean sweep of the slams in a calendar year have, understandably, proved too much of a temptation.

For his part, he is relishing being back on the grass surface on which he struggled early in his career before Wimbledon titles in 2008 and again in 2010.

“Wimbledon is a tournament I like so much,” he said. “It has been three years without playing here. I really wanted to be back, so it means a lot for me to be in the quarter-finals. Now is the moment to keep doing the steps forward if I want to keep having chances.”

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