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Three to See, Wimbledon Day 10: Nadal vs. Fritz; Halep vs. Anisimova; Kyrgios vs. Garin
With first-time Grand Slam semifinals on offer for most of the field, former champions Nadal and Halep will take to Centre Court on Wednesday vying to hold back a youth surge.
Published Jul 05, 2022
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Rafael Nadal vs. Taylor Fritz
Listening to Fritz, you might think he prefers playing a 22-time Grand Slam champion to just about anyone else.
“I feel like decision-making is easy,” Fritz said of his mindset when he faces Nadal. “I don’t really second-guess shots like I would if I’m playing someone that I’m supposed to beat. Against someone like Rafa,” it’s easy to always make the aggressive decision and kind of play, like, freer.
“Just knowing that I’ll have to play a certain level, I know that I’ll play better.”
Fritz can speak with that kind of confidence because of the way he played the last time these two met, in the Indian Wells final. While Rafa was dealing with a rib injury that day, it was still a breakthrough performance for Fritz, who beat him for the first time and won his first Masters 1000. Fritz took the initiative, built a lead, and survived a predictably furious comeback effort from Nadal to win the second set in a tiebreaker.
So we know that Fritz’s serve-forehand attack can work against Rafa; if he could do it on slow hard courts in Indian Wells, he should be able to do it on faster grass. But it may be the latter fact, that he held off Rafa in a crucial tiebreaker, that’s more important. Normally we would give the edge to Nadal if the match is extremely close or comes down to tiebreakers; and maybe we should again. But Fritz is known for his survival skills in those situations. He’s 20-3 in match-deciding tiebreakers, and while he has yet to face a seed at Wimbledon, he’s 2-0 in breakers, and hasn’t dropped a set.
Now comes the leap up in weight class. However well Fritz may be playing, and whatever happened in their last match, Nadal will still be the solid favorite. Fritz is right that he’ll be able to swing more freely against Rafa in the early going, but that will almost surely cease to be the case if he builds a lead.
On Monday, Nadal refused to give any significance to his Indian Wells loss.
“What I learned from that last match was zero,” Rafa said, in unusually blunt words, “because I had a stress fracture on my rib.”
Still, Nadal acknowledges that this will be a “tough quarterfinal against a great player.”
It’s also one where he’ll need to elevate his game above what he has shown so far. Nadal lost a set in each of his first two rounds, and in the last two rounds he gave back a break lead in the third set before closing it out. That’s hardly a reason to panic, but we have yet to see him sustain his top level throughout a match.
Fritz could surprise us. He has the weaponry, and we’ve seen lesser players beat Rafa at Wimbledon. But I’ll pick a winner based on one stat: This will be Nadal’s 47th Grand Slam quarterfinal; it will be Fritz’s first. Winner: Nadal
Simona Halep vs. Amanda Anisimova
“Grass is not an easy surface,” Halep says. “You really have to connect with it. You have to get used to it.”
Halep appears to be forming a close connection with it, just as she did in the latter rounds at Wimbledon 2019. That year she lost a total of eight games against Elina Svitolina and Serena Williams in the semis and final. On Monday she was in a similar zone in her 6-1, 6-2 win over No. 4 seed Paula Badosa.
Of course, every player who reaches a Grand Slam quarterfinal has to be connecting pretty well with the surface, and finding a groove with her strokes. That’s certainly true of Anisimova, who has looked to be in a zone of her own since her close call against Lauren Davis in the third round. Since then, against Coco Gauff and Harmony Tan, she has been in almost total control.
Halep leads Anisimova 2-1 in their head to head, and the Romanian won 6-2, 6-1 two weeks ago on grass in Bad Homburg. Anisimova had a wrist problem that day, and Halep acknowledges that this “is going to be a different match.”
In their tactical approaches, though, there won’t be any surprises. The 5’11” Anisimova will punch, and the 5’6” Halep will counterpunch. It could go either way, but Halep’s form on Monday definitely had a 2019 look to it. Winner: Halep
Nick Kyrgios vs. Cristian Garin
There are no grass courts in Chile, Garin says. Which makes his trip to the Wimbledon quarterfinals one of the shocks of the fortnight, especially when you consider that he has never been that far at any Slam, and that he was initially supposed to face one of the pre-tournament favorites, Matteo Berrettini, in the first round. But Berrettini came down with COVID-19, and off Garin went. Now he’ll face a pre-tournament dark horse, Kyrgios, for the first time.
Garin and Kyrgios both went five sets in their fourth-round matches on Monday. But Garin’s was the more exhausting slog. He came back from two sets down to beat Alex de Minaur in four and a half hours of highly physical, rapid-fire baseline tennis.
The challenge for Kyrgios will be, as it usually is, mental. He was less disruptive against Brandon Nakashima on Centre Court than he was against Stefanos Tsitsipas the round before. But that could all end again if he falls behind Garin.
Kyrgios is the natural pick when these two play on grass. He has the bigger serve and the killer forehand, while Garin is still a dirt-baller at heart, with an attritional rather than a first-strike game style. But there are reasons to think he’ll make this competitive: He upped his aggression in the latter stages against De Minaur, without sacrificing his consistency; he has a two-handed backhand that should serve him well on his return; and he should feel like he has nothing to lose. Winner: Kyrgios