Nadal wins delayed match despite dropping first sets

 

 

By Chris Lehourites

WIMBLEDON, England – Erasing a two-set deficit despite playing on a fourth consecutive day, Rafael Nadal beat Mikhail Youzhny in five sets Thursday to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals.

Nadal, the 2006 runner-up, picked up early service breaks in each of the final three sets to win 4-6, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2.

Venus Williams had a much easier time Thursday, playing outstanding tennis to reach the semifinals by beating No. 5 Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 6-4. Williams will next face French Open finalist Ana Ivanovic, who defeated No. 14 Nicole Vaidisova 4-6, 6-2, 7-5.

Ivanovic saved three match points and beginning with the last one, won 13 of 15 points. That sent her on her way to taking the match’s last four games. It ended when Vaidisova double-faulted for the sixth time.

“I knew I could do it,” Ivanovic said. “I knew I could make some good shots and be aggressive and move forward and put pressure.”

Play was suspended for the day with four-time defending champion Roger Federer and No. 20 Juan Carlos Ferrero still in the first set of their quarterfinal. Federer was serving at deuce at 5-5.

No. 3 Andy Roddick and No. 12 Richard Gasquet took the court to warm up but never started.

Youzhny, one of only three players to have beaten Nadal twice in the last year, struggled midway through his match with lower-back pain.

Nadal’s third-round match, which was supposed to begin Saturday, didn’t finish until Wednesday due to rain delays.

Nadal is trying to become the first man to win the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year since Bjorn Borg in 1980.

In the quarterfinals, the second-seeded Spaniard will face No. 7 Tomas Berdych, who beat Jonas Bjorkman 6-4, 6-0, 6-7 (6), 6-0.

No. 10 Marcos Baghdatis, who lost to Nadal in last year’s semifinals, advanced by beating No. 6 Nikolay Davydenko 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5), 6-3 in the fourth round. He will next play No. 4 Novak Djokovic, who beat 2002 champion Lleyton Hewitt 7-6 (8), 7-6 (2), 4-6, 7-6 (5).

Williams had three aces, and 2004 U.S. Open champion Kuznetsova failed to put another 21 serves into play. The American won 76 percent of the points played on her first serve, averaging 109 mph.

Her only struggle came when serving for the match. Leading 40-0, Williams lost four straight points and faced a break point. But she fought back and won when Kuznetsova sent a forehand long – the Russian’s 24th unforced error.

Williams was broken once Thursday, but the five-time Grand Slam champion responded by breaking back against Kuznetsova at love.