Rafael Nadal shuts down talk of injury problems and sets sights on Wimbledon semi-finals

Rafael Nadal is tired, thankfully for his many fans he’s only tired of talking.

It’s three years since the 22-time Grand Slam winner last played Wimbledon and 12 years since he won here but whisper it quietly, Rafa is starting to believe.

He looked lacklustre, by his usual high standards, in his opening matches but against Lorenzo Sonego and Botic van de Zandschulp he was dominant, rolling back the years in swaggering style.

Now American Taylor Fritz awaits in the quarter-finals and, potentially, Australia’s Nick Kyrgios in the final four.

Nadal sweated through a practice session with coach Marc Lopez at the All England Club on Tuesday, thumping forehand after forehand down the line with metronomic accuracy.

The crowd on Court 16 got a bonus masterclass for their ground price admission, Nadal even showing his football skills during breaks from the drills.

“I’m a little bit tired of talking about my body,” said Nadal, who admitted having injections to put his injured foot to sleep on his way to a 14th French Open at Roland Garros.

“I’m just trying my best but at the moment I’m healthy enough to keep going, keep fighting. I’m not worried. I have been able to adjust and to accept the challenges in terms of physical issues. I’ve been able to find a way to be competitive and improve my game.

“It takes a lot of mental and physical effort to try to play this tournament after the things that I went through in the last couple of months.

“I love Wimbledon and it’s been three years without playing here. I really wanted to be back this year and the improvement during the tournament is a positive for me.”

Few people know Nadal better than Francis Roig, who has been working with the Spaniard since 2005. He’s witnessed much in those 17 years but even he admits marvelling at the number two seeds powers of recovery in recent weeks, especially now he’s nearer 40 than 30.

“I don’t know where he finds the energy to do what he does,” he said.

“Perhaps he feels at peace with himself, he’s got nothing to prove and he just loves the competition. He made a huge effort to win in Paris but he’ll do everything here too.”

Fritz beat Nadal to win his first Masters 1000 title in Indian Wells - a match he’ll be watching back to inspire him ahead of their Centre Court date.

This is his first Grand Slam quarter-final, Nadal has been in this position 47 times.

“You can’t play it safe against Rafa, you have to go for it and be aggressive, play freely,” said Fritz, who has yet to drop a set.

“I know I’m going to have to play a lot better than I have but I know I can do it. I’ll need to take my chances and play the big points well.”

The American’s mum Kathy May once played another Wimbledon icon, losing 6-1 6-1 to Billie Jean King.

Fritz will certainly push Nadal a lot more than that - the question is can Rafa keep defying odds, age and expectations?

For the latest action on the British summer grass court season, check out the LTA Website