LONDON (Reuters) - Rafael Nadal is only too familiar with the adrenaline rush that surges through his body after winning an electrifying five-set thriller in four hours and 48 minutes on Wimbledon’s Centre Court.
After all, those were broad details of the mesmerising 2008 final when the Spaniard ended Roger Federer’s five-year Wimbledon reign and hoisted the Challenge Cup for the first time.
Ten years on from that remarkable contest, which is widely considered as ‘the greatest ever tennis match’, Nadal was again celebrating another All England Club success with the same broad match details.
Only problem was that on Wednesday nobody was rushing out to roll out the green carpet and hand over the trophy as the Spaniard’s 7-5 6-7(7) 4-6 6-4 6-4 victory over Juan Martin del Potro had merely secured him a semi-final with Novak Djokovic.
Nadal described Wednesday’s showdown as a combination of “suffering” and “enjoyment” but he was mightily relieved he came back from two-sets-to-one down to reach the semi-finals for the first time since 2011.
“Of course I was worried when I lost the second set,” said Nadal, who had reached the quarter-finals without dropping a set and might have continued that run had he not squandered four set points, including one with a double fault, in the tiebreak.
“That double fault was a big mistake.”
But such sloppy mistakes were kept to a minimum in a high-quality contest that featured 144 winners and 36 aces.
As it was, Del Potro came out on top in both counts by conjuring 77 of those winners and blasting down 33 aces - and still came off second best.
“I am very happy the way that I survived a lot of important points in that fifth set,” Nadal said.
“I think I did a lot of things well. I went to the net. In general terms it was a positive match.
“Only negative thing is I played almost five hours.”
Being kept on court for so long before a 52nd meeting with Djokovic is not exactly the kind of preparation the 17-times Grand Slam champion would have wanted.
But having won 31 of his 32 matches since injury cut short his Australian Open in January, the Spaniard is riding high on confidence and will be eager to complete the French Open-Wimbledon double for the third time.
“I’ve done a lot of things well since I am back from injury. I’ve only lost one match,” said Nadal.
“It’s my goal is to try to play very well. I know in the semi-finals of Wimbledon you will not have an easy opponent in front (of you).
“You have to accept that if you want to win important things. You need to be ready for it.”
Editing by Greg Stutchbury