Rafael Nadal spoke about how he is fighting against his physical decline after defeating Botic van de Zandschulp 6-4 6-2 7-6 (8-6) to advance to the Wimbledon quarter-final.

It was Nadal's second consecutive straight sets win after dropping a set to both Ricardis Berankis and Francisco Cerundolo in his first two rounds.

After not competing at Wimbledon since reaching the semi-final in 2019, Nadal is back as he tries to keep his dreams of a calendar slam alive, having won the Australian Open and the French Open already this year.

Speaking to the media after his fourth-round win, the Spaniard declined to give detail about his injuries, saying he is "healthy enough to keep going".

"I am a little bit tired of talking about my body," he said. "It's not that I don't want to answer the question, but at the same time, sometimes I am tired of myself, and all the issues I'm having.

"I'd prefer to not talk about it now – I'm sorry for that – but I am in the middle of the tournament, and I have to keep going. 

"All respect to the rest of my opponents, I am just trying my best every single day, and for the moment I am healthy enough to keep going, and to fight for the things that I want."

He added: "I think I made a big effort to be here.

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

"But as everybody knows, Wimbledon is a tournament that I like so much, and it's been three years without playing here. I really wanted to be back, and that's what I'm doing, so that's why it means so much to be in the quarter-finals."

Nadal did not want to get into a discussion about his physical struggles, but it was unavoidable when he was asked about how his grass-court play has evolved over the years.

"I won here in 2008, and I played the final in 2006 and 2007," he said. "So I have to say that during that period of time there were a lot of things I did well [on grass courts].

"At very early stages of my career I was able to play very well on this surface too, but of course I am running less than before, that is obvious.

"When I am losing things, in terms of physical performance, you need to add things to keep being competitive. That's what I did all my career, try to add things to my game, and improve things I need to still be competitive after losing some physical capacities, and other things you lose during your career.

"At the same time, one of the things I'm more proud of is the way I've been able to adjust and accept the challenges in terms of physical issues, and to be able to always find a way to be competitive and improve my game."

Looking forward to his quarter-final clash with American Taylor Fritz – who defeated Nadal in the final of the Indian Wells Masters back in March – the legend said he was in too much pain during that contest to learn any lessons.

"Honestly, what I learned out at our last match was zero, because I had a stress fracture in my rib," he said. "That made it difficult to learn many things, because honestly the pain was terrible playing that match. 

"He's playing at a very, very high level, having a great season, winning matches everywhere, and you can see it. He won the tournament last week – the week before Wimbledon – and now the quarter-finals, winning already in a Masters 1000, he's in a very high position in the race already."

He added: "At the same time, we're in a quarter-final, so you can't expect an easy opponent."

Nick Kyrgios reflected on what he feels is a new-found maturity after defeating Brandon Nakashima to earn his spot against Cristian Garin in the Wimbledon quarter-final.

The 27-year-old Australian needed five sets to make it past the 20-year-old American, eventually winning 4-6 6-4 7-6 (7-2) 3-6 6-2.

In a match that was far from smooth sailing, Kyrgios needed a medical timeout following the first set to deal with some shoulder discomfort that has flared up since his fiery win against Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Speaking to the media after his success, Kyrgios said everyone is dealing with niggling injuries this deep into a grand slam, but he is proud of the way he has handled adversity this time around.

"I woke up after Tsitsipas and had some shoulder pain," he said. "I’ve played so much tennis over the last month and a half that I felt it was about time for my body to start feeling some niggles. 

"I don’t think anybody is feeling 100 per cent at this time, Rafa – you see him dealing with something all the time – so it’s something I just manage. Mentally, I think I deal with these things a lot better now. 

"I knew today I wasn’t feeling 100 per cent, but mentally I stayed quite calm, knowing that I wasn’t able to serve full out for the five sets."

His ability to fight through his injury was just one aspect of how Kyrgios feels he has grown as both a player and a person, touching on how far he has come since being dragged out of the pub by his manager in 2019.

"I feel like I’ve been through so much, now I can stay composed," he said. "It’s the first time in my career that I wasn’t playing well, but I was able to say ‘wow, look how far I’ve come’ – It was rewarding. 

"I think I’m enjoying the battle a bit more – I’m expecting everyone to play well against me now. I was that kid once, the underdog, whereas today walking on Centre Court being the favourite was completely different for me, but I was able to navigate that.

"There was a time when I was having to be forced out of a pub at 4am to play Nadal [in the second round of 2019] – my agent had to come and get me out of a pub at 4am before I played my match on Centre Court, Wimbledon. 

"So I’ve come a long way, that’s for sure… to sit here, quarter-finals at Wimbledon, feeling composed, mature, completely blessed and comfortable in my own skin."

Having burst onto the scene at such a young age, Kyrgios said he feels he helped pave the way for the current generation of young stars.

"This is almost my 10th year on Tour," he said. "I kind of feel like I was the first guy who broke through young, like at 19, beating Rafa at Wimbledon. 

"I was the first young guy to show all the other guys – like Zverev and Thiem and stuff – that they could do it as well, I feel like I was the first one to break the mould. You look at guys like Alcaraz, Sinner who are just absolutely fearless. 

"I think a lot of players think that Federer, Djokovic and Nadal are almost Gods and you can’t hurt them. I feel like I showed at least one of them was human that day."

Rafael Nadal and Simona Halep claimed victories on Centre Court on Monday, a day on from celebrating the venue's centenary.

Nadal and Halep were among a host of champions, including Roger Federer and last year's winner Novak Djokovic, to stand on Centre Court on Sunday for a celebration of its 100th anniversary.

A day later, they were back at the venue to seal their respective progressions to the quarter-finals.

Halep, Wimbledon champion in 2019, defeated fourth seed Paula Badosa 6-1 6-2, while Nadal overcame Botic van de Zandschulp 6-4 6-2 7-6 (8-6).

Of female players still competing on the WTA Tour, only Serena Williams (14) and Venus Williams (13) have reached more Wimbledon quarter-finals than Halep (five), who will face Amanda Anisimova in the last eight.

Nadal, meanwhile, has now played 350 matches at grand slams – a total bettered only by Federer and Djokovic.

The 22-time grand slam winner was made to work for victory in the third set by Van de Zandschulp, but having overcome a wobble, went on to secure his 18th straight major match win of 2022.

Asked about being given the honour of taking to Centre Court on Sunday, Nadal said: "Yesterday was a beautiful thing sharing the court with legends of our sport.

"Centre Court for 100 years is something very special."

It was a sentiment echoed by Halep, who is looking to reach her first grand slam semi-final since the 2020 Australian Open and has not dropped a set so far at Wimbledon this year.

"Definitely it was a place I wanted to be today. I think I played a great match," she said. "It was a pleasure to be back on Centre Court with this great crowd supporting me.

"I missed it a lot, three years was a [long time].  Yesterday I was on the court with all the champions and it was amazing. I was more nervous than I was today."

Next up for Nadal is Taylor Fritz, who beat the Spaniard in their last meeting in the final of the Indian Wells Masters earlier this season.

While Nadal is into his eighth Wimbledon quarter-final – and his 47th at a grand slam, a tally that lags behind only Djokovic (53) and Federer (58) – Fritz has never reached the last eight of a major before.

"In a personal way, for me to be able to be in quarter-finals after three years, it's amazing for me, so I'm very, very happy," said Nadal, who is hunting the calendar Grand Slam in 2022.

"Every match is different," he added of his tie against Fritz, which he anticipates being tricky.

"He is playing well and having a very good year, including a first Masters 1000 title, against me by the way, but we will be in the quarter-final of Wimbledon, so what should I expect?"

Rafael Nadal will face Taylor Fritz in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon after marking his 350th grand slam match with a win over Botic van de Zandschulp.

Nadal is in the hunt for a clean sweep of the majors this season and the two-time Wimbledon champion remained on course with Monday's victory, though he ultimately needed a third-set tie-break to get the job done 6-4 6-2 7-6 (8-6).

The 36-year-old's wobble lasted the whole third set, with Nadal squandering the chance to serve out the victory before he gave up three match points.

But Nadal would not let a fourth opportunity slip from his grasp, and Fritz, who beat Jason Kubler in straight sets, is next up.

The American won his last meeting with Nadal, defeating the great Spaniard in the Indian Wells Masters earlier this season.

Nadal set the tone by forcing Van de Zandschulp to salvage two break points in the Dutchman's first service game.

Set one went Nadal's way with under 45 minutes played when he claimed the match's first break, and Van de Zandschulp was swiftly 2-0 down at the start of the second, which the Spaniard went on to dominate.

The 22-time grand slam champion endured a wobble at the start of the third when he squandered a 40-0 lead on his own serve.

Nadal struck straight back, and a second break followed when the world number four reeled off an exquisite, cushioned cross-court winner.

Yet Van de Zandschulp was handed a reprieve, with a double fault and some sloppy shots seeing Nadal fail to serve out the win.

Nadal seemed to have the edge in the tie-break when he came out on top in a wicked rally, yet he saw three match points escape before, finally, an overhit Van de Zandschulp volley sent him into an eighth Wimbledon quarter-final.

Data slam: Another milestone up for Nadal

Nadal has now played in 350 singles matches at grand slam events, becoming just the third man to do so in the Open Era, behind fellow greats Novak Djokovic (378) and Roger Federer (429).

He has won his first 18 grand slam matches in 2022. In the Open Era, only Djokovic (last year) and Rod Laver (1969) have won more matches at the majors from the start of the season. ​

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Nadal – 29/17
Van de Zandschulp – 31/34

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Nadal – 9/2
Van de Zandschulp – 11/7

BREAK POINTS WON
Nadal – 5/11
Van de Zandschulp – 2/4

Rafael Nadal was quick to apologise for appearing to upset opponent Lorenzo Sonego when he called him in for a word late in a dominant Wimbledon win.

Nadal saw off Sonego in straight sets and was in complete control for much of the third-round match, only briefly losing his composure when the Centre Court roof was closed following a lengthy plea from the 27th seed.

When the contest resumed, Nadal – who had not faced a break point until that stage – was broken to love in a game in which he took issue with a noise Sonego made as he approached the ball.

Nadal appealed to the umpire for some form of discipline immediately after the point and then took the matter into his own hands following the game.

The Spaniard called over a bemused Sonego and seemed to admonish him, leaving the Italian clearly frustrated and engaging in a prolonged discussion with the umpire.

Nadal then broke back and quickly wrapped up a 6-1 6-2 6-4 victory, before the pair met again at the net.

The 22-time major champion first attempted to explain his actions to Sonego, then to the umpire and finally to the Centre Court crowd.

After a highly respectful first answer in his on-court interview – acknowledging his "best match" of the championships so far against "a great player", "the most difficult player I've faced" in this run – Nadal discussed the confrontation.

It was suggested the encounter had been "spicy", but Nadal interrupted: "Sorry, not spicy at all. From the bottom of my heart, I didn't mean it in a negative way.

"I feel very sorry if I bothered him – I just wanted to tell him something. I did it in a nice way, and I feel now really bad if I bothered him. I'm sorry for that.

"That's it. I was talking to him, and now I'm going to talk to him, but this was not a problem, I don't think, at all."

Rafael Nadal enjoyed serene progress into round four at Wimbledon with a stylish 6-1 6-2 6-4 defeat of Lorenzo Sonego on Saturday.

For the first time at SW19 this week, there was little evidence of Nadal's recent fitness problems as he completely outclassed his Italian opponent.

And on this form, the calendar Grand Slam appears a genuine possibility for the Australian Open and French Open champion.

Indeed, it was hard not to feel sorry for Sonego – and he did appear to have the sympathy of the Centre Court crowd – as Nadal's strokes painted pretty patterns around him.

The Spaniard remarkably dropped only two points on his own serve in the first set – both to double-faults. It was a similar story in Sonego's service games, too, as he held at the first attempt but then lost the next nine in succession.

Such was Nadal's superiority a relieved Sonego lifted his arms to salute the crowd as he finally held serve in the fifth game of the second and was given a generous cheer.

That small victory scarcely slowed Nadal, who wrapped up the second on his own serve and then blasted Sonego away in the opening game of the third to break once again.

Sonego soon found a more effective way to hold up his opponent, however, appealing at length for the Centre Court roof to be closed and eventually succeeding after a brave hold and a handful of points on Nadal's serve informed officials he was capable of dragging the contest out under fading light.

So it briefly proved, as Nadal – perhaps irked by the delay – lost his composure and was broken to love after Sonego made a noise as he approached the ball; Nadal deemed the umpire an unnecessary middle man and called Sonego over for a word, clearly upsetting the Italian.

A fired-up Nadal immediately broke back, and after finally delivering a little drama, the match – and Sonego's campaign – was over.

Data Slam: Rafa ramping up

This was Sonego's first meeting with Nadal, and he might have picked a better time to face this fiercely focused great. The 22-time major champion has now won 10 third-round Wimbledon matches in a row, including the past four without dropping a set. Sonego had a hard enough time merely winning a game for much of the match.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Nadal – 24/17
Sonego – 19/17

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Nadal – 2/4
Sonego – 2/2

BREAK POINTS WON
Nadal – 6/8
Sonego – 1/1

Rafael Nadal fended off a second early test of his Wimbledon mettle as he took four sets to see off Ricardas Berankis on Thursday.

Just as in his opener against Francisco Cerundolo, Nadal dropped the third set of this match, but he regrouped, as he had two days earlier, to finish it in four.

A 6-4 6-4 4-6 6-3 victory for the 36-year-old will do the job for round two, but it was laboured at times on Centre Court from Nadal, a day after title favourite Novak Djokovic delivered a masterclass against Thanasi Kokkinakis.

Australian Open and French Open champion Nadal sealed it with an ace, his 16th consecutive win in a grand slam match, and the lack of polish at this early stage can be forgiven, given his lack of preparation on grass as he underwent treatment on his troublesome foot.

World number 106 Berankis forced breaks to lead early in the second and third sets, and although the Lithuanian was pegged back quickly enough by Nadal on the first occasion, he held his nerve to take the third set.

A rain delay came when Nadal was 3-0 clear in the fourth set, and that was only an inconvenience, Nadal wasting little time in finishing the job.

With Matteo Berrettini and Roberto Bautista Agut both pulling out of Nadal's half of the draw due to COVID-19, and Denis Shapovalov losing on Thursday to Brandon Nakashima after reaching the semi-finals last year, it is hard to see who might deny the Spanish two-time champion a place in the final, unless Nick Kyrgios or Stefanos Tsitsipas fancy the task. Italian Lorenzo Sonego will be the next to try.

Nadal said: "Every day is a challenge. That's the truth. I didn't play much on grass in the last three years. I need to improve, but I think the fourth set was much better. I think it was a good level of tennis in that set and the serve worked much better at the end of the match and I was able to play more aggressive, while at the beginning there were too many mistakes.

"It's important for me to accept things are not perfect and just keep working, be humble and accept the challenge."

Data slam: Going past Martina

Nadal took his total of singles grand slam wins to 307 with this victory, taking him one ahead of Martina Navratilova, the nine-time Wimbledon champion.

He moves up to fourth place on the all-time list for singles wins in the majors, behind only Roger Federer, who leads the way, Serena Williams and Djokovic.

Nadal of course leads the men's slam race with an unmatched 22 slams.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Nadal – 35/39
Berankis – 35/35

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Nadal – 13/4
Berankis – 3/3

BREAK POINTS WON
Nadal – 4/16
Berankis – 2/5

Rafael Nadal was delighted to pass an "important test" against Francisco Cerundolo in his Wimbledon opener and refused to blame his foot injury after dropping the third set against the Argentine.

Nadal was made to work on Centre Court on Tuesday, requiring three hours and 33 minutes to wrap up a 6-4 6-3 3-6 6-4 win over Cerundolo.

The 22-time grand slam champion made 41 unforced errors but regained his composure to move into the second round, winning 11 consecutive points as he fought back from a break down in the fourth set to ensure he will face Ricardas Berankis.

The Spaniard says his lack of action on grass was always going to ensure it would not be plain sailing at SW19.

"I'm going to be talking about my foot today and not anymore, if it's fine for you guys," said the second seed, who is in the hunt for a calendar Grand Slam.

"We cannot be talking about my foot every single day. If not, we forget the most important thing: that is tennis.

"All credit to Fran, he started to play great and he has been a very tough opponent.

"Grass is not a surface we play very often and especially in my case, for different reasons, the last three years I didn't put a foot on the grass.

"It always takes a while – this has been my first match and every day is a test and today has been one of those important tests.

"At the beginning of the tournament, especially under the circumstances that I arrived here, the victory is the most important thing because that gives me the chance to practice tomorrow again and to have another match in two days, and I'm happy for that, without a doubt."

Nadal played his first grass-court match in three years just last week when facing Stan Wawrinka in an exhibition contest, and is participating at the All England Club for the first time since a run to the semi-finals in 2019.

Rafael Nadal was forced to work for a first-round victory over Francisco Cerundolo on Centre Court at Wimbledon.

The world number two overcame a scare to secure a 6-4 6-3 3-6 6-4 win at SW19 despite making 41 unforced errors as he eyes a first calendar Grand Slam.

Second seed Nadal, who won his first grass-court match in three years in an exhibition match against Stan Wawrinka last week, secured a break in the fourth game but Argentine Cerundolo immediately responded, finishing with a strong overhead volley after the Spaniard lost his footing after his service.

Cerundolo was certainly not fazed by his all-conquering opponent, with the pair exchanging thrilling rallies and both displaying an array of brilliant shots in a first set that Nadal won by breaking for a second time.

The 22-time major champion made a scrappy start to the second set, but a solitary break in the sixth game put him one set away from round two.

In the third, Cerundolo continued to battle as he broke Nadal back immediately to peg him back at 2-2 and edged in front at 5-3 before serving out the set to raise hopes he could pull off a huge shock.

The world number 42 continued to excel as he opened up a 3-1 lead in the fourth set, but Nadal roared back and won 11 consecutive points, breaking twice to seal his spot in the second round without being taken the distance.

He will face Ricardas Berankis in the second round at the All England Club.

Data slam: Nadal matches Navratilova record

Nadal's victory saw him equal the great Martina Navratilova's record of 306 grand slam wins in his career.

That puts him joint-fourth on the all-time list, behind only Roger Federer (369), Serena Williams (365) and Novak Djokovic (328)

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS
Nadal – 23/41
Cerundolo – 30/46

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS
Nadal – 5/3
Cerundolo – 2/2

BREAK POINTS WON
Nadal – 6/14
Cerundolo – 4/18

Novak Djokovic would be delighted by the prospect of facing Rafael Nadal in the Wimbledon final, as he targets revenge for his French Open loss to the Spaniard.

Nadal remains on course for a calendar Grand Slam after following up January's Australian Open victory with his 14th French Open title earlier this month, having overcome Djokovic in a quarter-final classic on the clay in Paris.

The Spaniard's Roland Garros triumph moved him two clear of Djokovic's tally of 20 grand slam titles, while his last-eight win over the Serbian was his 29th in the pair's head-to-head rivalry (Djokovic has 30 wins).

With 59 career meetings, the duo have met one another more often than any other men's pairing in the Open Era, and they could be set for a final showdown at Wimbledon after landing on opposite sides of the draw.

Speaking to Sky Sports, defending Wimbledon champion Djokovic said he would relish such a contest and insisted Nadal, who has not triumphed on the grass in London since 2010, is among the favourites to take home the title.

 

"If we get to face each other it means we're both in the finals, which I think we both want," Djokovic said.

"It's a very long way [away], but of course you have to put him as one of the favourites, even though he hasn't played at Wimbledon for the last three years [including the cancelled 2020 edition], I think.

"But still, he's Nadal, he has achieved what he has achieved throughout his career and also this year, of course, which gives you a lot of confidence in his case.

"I'm sure there's going to be a lot of great matches ahead for both of us, and if we get to face [each other] in the final… I'd love to face him in the final and get revenge for Paris!"

Nadal has beaten Djokovic in 11 of the duo's 18 grand slam meetings, although the Serbian holds a 2-1 advantage over their three Wimbledon contests, triumphing in the 2011 final and the 2018 semi-finals.

Djokovic begins his Wimbledon campaign by facing Kwon Soon-woo on Centre Court on Monday, with Nadal taking on Argentina's Francisco Cerundolo the following day.

Carlos Alcaraz has been checking out footage of Wimbledon greats including Roger Federer as he bids to sharpen up his raw grass-court game.

The 19-year-old Alcaraz has shot up to number seven in the ATP rankings after winning four titles this year, having begun 2022 outside the top 30.

However, he has little in the way of pedigree on grass, having been stopped in his tracks in round two last year by Daniil Medvedev, winning just seven games.

Of his titles this year, three have come on clay and one on a hard court.

Alcaraz reached the quarter-finals of the Wimbledon boys' singles in 2019, losing to American Martin Damm, and regardless of his recent stellar form, it is difficult to predict how he might fare in London this year.

It is clear that Alcaraz believes he can learn to play on the grass, and that he will pull out all the stops to become a champion on the fast lawns of London, beginning on Monday.

"I'm trying to copy some things from the best ones," he said. "I always watch videos: Federer, [Novak] Djokovic, Rafa [Nadal] and Andy [Murray] as well, trying to copy the moves."

That quartet has dominated at Wimbledon for two decades now. The last player not from that group to win the men's singles was Lleyton Hewitt in 2002, with Federer landing eight titles, Djokovic six, Nadal two and Murray two.

Federer is the only one of Wimbledon's 'Big Four' absent this year; knee trouble preventing him taking part.

Alcaraz, who is seeded fifth, predicted this Wimbledon will be a "tough" assignment in his own fledgling career.

However, seeing fellow Spaniard Nadal get to grips with grass early in his own career has instructed Alcaraz it is a surface that he should not fear.

Nadal was 22 when he won the first of his Wimbledon titles, and 20 when he first reached a final at the All England Club.

Alcaraz is not entirely ruling out challenging this year, because that is how he approaches every event he enters.

He will start on Monday against Germany's Jan-Lennard Struff, with that match given a prestigious Court One billing, such is Alcaraz's rising status.

"Of course, watching Rafa – I would say he is more for clay courts – winning so many tournaments on grass, winning twice here in Wimbledon, you'd think that you are able to adapt your game to grass courts," Alcaraz told a news conference on Sunday.

"But I would say I have a game that is going to adapt well on grass, trying to go to the net, playing aggressive.

"I would say I'm able to play well on grass, and it was said I couldn't prepare well for Wimbledon this year, but I always come to every tournament thinking I'm able to do good results or even able to win the tournament."

When Wimbledon ended last year, there were two great takeaways from the tournament: Novak Djokovic would soon be pulling away in the grand slam title race and Ash Barty was beginning a new era of dominance.

Both seemed to be knock-ins, and yet neither has come to pass. Djokovic missed out on a calendar Grand Slam in New York before being banished from Australia, and despite drawing level with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer on 20 grand slams with his Centre Court triumph, he now finds himself two adrift of the Spaniard again.

Barty, meanwhile, has left her own party. The then world number one stunned the tennis world by retiring in March, having added the Australian Open she so craved to her trophy cabinet.

Djokovic and Iga Swiatek head into Wimbledon, which begins on Monday, as the top seeds.

Stats Perform has used Opta facts to consider what the men's and women's singles might deliver.

 

KING ROGER'S REIGN IS OVER, BUT DJOKOVIC AND NADAL KEEP GOING STRONG

There will come a time when the Wimbledon favourite is not one of the 'Big Three'. That time is not now.

Djokovic is the man most likely, as he targets his fourth straight Wimbledon title and seventh overall; since 2011, when he beat Nadal in the final, the Serbian has only been absent from the trophy match three times (in 2012, 2016 and 2017).

His winning run of 21 matches at Wimbledon is the fifth-longest in the men's singles. Bjorn Borg holds the record (41 between 1976 and 1981).

The last player other than Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Andy Murray to win the Wimbledon men's title was Lleyton Hewitt in 2002. Federer is absent this year and may have played his last Wimbledon.

Nadal has won Wimbledon twice, in 2008 and 2010. He won the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open in 2010, the only season of his career when he has won three slams. This year, at the age of 36, he has the Australian and French Open trophies already locked away, potentially halfway to a calendar Grand Slam, last achieved in men's singles in 1969 by Rod Laver.

Should Nadal pull off another major coup, it would make him only the second man in the Open Era (from 1968) to win the season's first three singles slams, after Laver in 1969 and Djokovic last year.

Can the rest hope to compete?

What of Murray? Well, only Federer (19), Sampras (10), Laver and Jimmy Connors (both nine) have won more ATP titles on grass than the Scot in the Open Era. If he recovers from an abdominal strain, he has a shot at reaching the second week. He will of course have the full backing of the Wimbledon crowd.

Last year's runner-up Matteo Berrettini is fancied more than Nadal by many, having won Stuttgart and Queen's Club titles in the build-up.

There has not been an American men's singles champion since 2000, and although the United States has six players seeded, more than any other nation, it seems a safe enough assumption we will be saying a similar thing again in 12 months' time.

Third seed Casper Ruud has never won a singles match at Wimbledon, while fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas has not had a win since reaching the fourth round in 2018. Daniil Medvedev, the world number one, cannot compete at The All England Club after their contentious decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

IF SERENA CAN'T CHALLENGE SWIATEK, WHO CAN?

From the jaws of retirement, Serena Williams is back. Silence from the 40-year-old about her intentions had become almost deafening, and yet here she is, back at Wimbledon on a wildcard, hoping to rekindle the old magic.

Because she has pushed back against the doubters for over two decades now, you have to take this seriously. Her haul of 23 grand slams is one short of Margaret Court's all-time record and Williams would dearly love to at least match it.

Three years ago, Williams became the oldest player to reach Wimbledon's women's singles final when she lost to Simona Halep. Six years ago, she was the oldest champion when she beat Angelique Kerber.

Only four women in the draw this year besides Williams have been champion before: Petra Kvitova (in 2011 and 2014), Garbine Muguruza (in 2017), Kerber (in 2018) and Halep (in 2019).

World number one Iga Swiatek starts as favourite. Junior Wimbledon champion four years ago, she has scooped two women's French Open titles since then and is on a 35-match winning streak.

After triumphing at Roland Garros in early June, Swiatek will hope to become the first woman since Kerber in 2016 (Australian Open and US Open) to win two singles slams in the same season.

The only competitive warm-up for Williams came in two doubles matches at Eastbourne, having not played since sustaining a hamstring injury at Wimbledon last year. The seven-time champion might consider it a challenge that there has never been an unseeded Wimbledon women's singles finalist during the Open Era.

The women's top two seeds have not met in the final since Serena faced her sister Venus in the 2002 title match, so don't hold your breath for a Swiatek versus Anett Kontaveit showpiece on July 9.

Could Gauff be best of the rest?

Coco Gauff made a breakthrough with her run to the French Open final. Although she was blown away by Swiatek, for the 18-year-old American it was another mark of progress. Gauff reached the fourth round in Wimbledon in 2019 (lost to Halep) and 2021 (lost to Kerber).

Fitness is likely to be the key factor in how US Open champion Emma Raducanu fares at her home grand slam, given her injury problems. Raducanu reached the fourth round on a wildcard last year and the 19-year-old will attempt to become the first British woman to reach that stage in back-to-back seasons since Jo Durie (1984, 1985).

Ons Jabeur, meanwhile, should not be discounted. The world number three reached the quarter-finals at SW19 last year and heads to Wimbledon having won on grass at the Berlin Open, albeit Belinda Bencic had retired hurt in the final.

The likes of Gauff, Raducanu and 21-year-old Swiatek will attempt to become the youngest woman to lift the trophy since 17-year-old Maria Sharapova triumphed in 2004.

A first-round exit for Swiatek would leave the event wide open, but don't count on it. In the Open Era, only three times has the top-seeded woman lost in round one: Steffi Graf in 1994 and Martina Hingis in 1999 and 2001.

Novak Djokovic says he has "nothing but respect" for Rafael Nadal as the Spaniard strives to create "even more of a successful legacy".

Nadal now has 22 majors to his name after winning the Australian Open and French Open this year – two more than Djokovic and Swiss great Roger Federer.

Victory at the French Open earlier in June was Nadal's 14th at Roland Garros, which is a whopping eight more than anyone else in the open era.

Djokovic, who kicks off his bid for a fourth consecutive Wimbledon title against Kwon Soon-woo on Monday, is in awe of Nadal's achievements, describing the 36-year-old as an "amazing champion".

"He had a surgery in the second part of the last year and coming back after that and winning a grand slam right away is something that is really impressive," the Serbian told a media conference on Saturday.

"[He is] making history with grand slam wins and at Roland Garros, the tournament where he has won most titles.

"Just for what he has achieved, keeps on doing on the court; he has a great fighting spirit, and he is an amazing champion.

"Just in general, the things he is trying to do to create even more of a successful legacy is something you have to respect and admire even though I am one of his biggest rivals. I have nothing but respect for what he has achieved."

Djokovic's refusal to get a COVID-19 vaccination has hampered his playing time this year, yet the 35-year-old is confident that will not hold him back as he bids for a seventh title at The All England Club.

"I didn't have any lead up tournaments but I've had success at Wimbledon before without having any official matches," he added.

"I had success with adapting quickly to the surface so there is no reason to believe why I cannot do it again. I'm very pleased and happy to be back at the tournament that was always my childhood dream, the one I wanted to win. Hopefully I continue that run.

"I would love to be in the position to fight for another trophy, I would like to be in the last match and eventually make history at this tournament.

"As a seven, eight-year-old boy I dreamed of winning Wimbledon and becoming number one. That was the biggest motivation I had as a kid.

"Pete Sampras, when he won his first Wimbledon, was the first tennis I watched on the TV. Pete has won it seven times. Hopefully I can do the same this year."

Rafael Nadal does not know how long his troublesome foot will hold up and cannot be "super happy" while the threat of injury lingers, but he is ready to attack Wimbledon.

Nadal, the 22-time major champion, is halfway to a calendar Grand Slam, having won the Australian Open and French Open.

Yet those successes have come despite a long-term foot problem he has battled, requiring pain-killing injections before every match at Roland Garros.

Nadal's Wimbledon participation was in question for some time, but he underwent two courses of radiofrequency injections in a bid to ease the pain and be fit enough to challenge at the All England Club.

That is now the case, he says, even if he has to accept his status is unpredictable day to day.

"It's obvious that if I am here, it's because things are going better," the Spaniard told a news conference. "If not, I would not be here.

"So I'm quite happy about [how] the things have evolved. I can't be super happy because I don't know what can happen.

"First of all, I can walk normal most of the days, almost every single day. That's for me the main issue. When I wake up, I don't have this pain that I was having for the last year and a half, so I'm quite happy about that.

"And second thing: practising. I have been overall better.

"Since the last two weeks, I didn't have one day of these terrible days that I can't move at all. Of course, [some] days are better; [some] days are little bit worse."

He added: "I can't tell you if I'm going to be in that positive moment for one week, for two days, or for three months.

"Of course, the treatment that I did didn't fix my injury. It is not improving my injury at all but can take out a little bit the pain. That's the main goal.

"Sometimes the things in the medical world, mathematics is not predictable 100 per cent.

"But in theory, that can help the foot because it's about the nerve. You touch the nerve, so then the nerve is like asleep in some way for a while, but then recovers.

"So how long the nerve is going to be that way, I can't tell you. It's something that we need to discover."

Rafael Nadal is halfway to a calendar Grand Slam, a feat that would mark the crowning point of any player's career.

Yet the Spanish great does not have to look far back into history to see how quickly that dream can be scuppered, with Novak Djokovic having fallen agonisingly short of a sweep of all four majors only last year.

As perhaps the most grounded player in tennis, Nadal heads into Wimbledon well aware that winning the first two majors of the year is no guarantee of any future success.

At the age of 36, and with a foot problem that requires careful maintenance, it would be arguably the most remarkable feat in the Open Era if Nadal were to add the Wimbledon and US Open titles to his Australian Open and French Open triumphs.

Such dominance is scarce in tennis, and Rod Laver was the last player to scoop all four men's singles titles at the majors, all the way back in 1969.

Steffi Graf won all four on the women's side in 1988, and it seemed a knock-in that Serena Williams would do likewise in 2015 when she headed to the US Open with three majors already bagged.

But Williams famously came unstuck when she faced Roberta Vinci in the semi-finals, while Djokovic went even closer in 2021, losing to Daniil Medvedev in the final at Flushing Meadows.

Here, Stats Perform examines the daunting challenge of scooping all four slams consecutively.


WHAT THE GREAT CHAMPIONS SAY

Before tennis reached its Open Era, which marked the dawning of professionalism on the tour, Laver won his first calendar Grand Slam in 1962.

He said later, quoted by the Tennis Hall of Fame: "It was a thrill to come off the court knowing I had won all four majors in one year. But I never felt like I was the best, never felt that way. I just happened to have a good year."

His 1969 dominance came a year after Laver returned to the majors, following a five-year exile while he played professional tennis elsewhere. When the majors allowed professionals to compete alongside the amateurs, 'Rocket Rod' was again unstoppable.

Laver turned 31 in 1969 and did not win any further grand slam singles titles in his career after that astonishing season, but that second perfect season sealed his legacy as an all-time great.

Stefan Edberg won a boys' singles clean sweep in 1983, but Laver remains the only player to win the men's singles full set in a calendar year since American Don Budge captured all four in the 1938 season, the first time it was achieved by a man. Maureen Connolly and Margaret Court achieved calendar Grand Slams in women's singles in 1953 and 1970 respectively.

A non-calendar Grand Slam was accomplished by Djokovic, when he won Wimbledon, the US Open, Australian Open and French Open consecutively across the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Yet no man other than Laver, Budge and Djokovic has won all four singles crowns in succession.

It has been 11 years since Nadal himself went close. He went to the Australian Open in 2011 with the Roland Garros, Wimbledon and US Open trophies in the bag, looking to complete the set.

"I am sure it's going to be the only one opportunity that I'm going to have in my life," said Nadal that year. "I'm not going to have more of these opportunities to win all four in a row.

"I think it is almost impossible. It is very, very difficult, no? Tennis is a very competitive sport and there is not a lot of difference between players. So a lot of matches are decided in a few balls. So for that reason it is very difficult to have one player winning everything. That's the truth."

Nadal, hampered by injury, lost in the Melbourne quarter-finals to David Ferrer in 2011 and had not won back-to-back slams since, until this year's surprise double. 


REACHING PRESSURE POINT

It is too soon to think that Nadal has a glorious chance to land all four big ones this year. After all, although he has won Wimbledon twice before, those triumphs came in 2008 and 2010, and he has a chronic foot problem. He has required radiofrequency ablation treatment in the past fortnight, preventing nerves in his foot sending messages to his brain.

He fell to Djokovic in the 2011 Wimbledon final and has not been back to the title match since, suffering a run of disappointing early exits in London before reaching semi-finals in 2018 and 2019, his last visits to the tournament.

Djokovic is a heavy favourite for this year's title, but it would be bold to entirely rule out Nadal, particularly given that as the second seed he cannot run into Djokovic until the final. Particularly given that he is Rafael Nadal, and prone to doing stupendous things.

Serbian Djokovic, a year Nadal's junior, would be able to tell his great rival just how intense the strain can become when a calendar Grand Slam becomes a serious prospect.

Speaking in November last year, two months after Medvedev denied him in New York, Djokovic said: "I'm very relieved that the grand slam season was done, because I felt a tremendous pressure unlike anything I felt in my life.

"It was an interesting experience, and I'm very satisfied with the way I played in grand slams, three wins and a final. There are much more positive things to be grateful for and to look at than negative."

Like Djokovic, Serena Williams has managed the non-calendar Grand Slam before, with the American first achieving that from the French Open in 2002 to the Australian Open in 2003, and in 2015 she was aiming for five slams in a row when she arrived at the US Open, having begun her dominant streak at her home grand slam the previous year.

That would have meant Williams sealed each of the 2015 slams, and losing to Vinci led to stark frustration, underlined by a terse response to the question of how disappointed she felt by the result.

"I don't want to talk about how disappointing it is for me," Williams said. "If you have any other questions, I'm open for that."

Sometimes, players get ahead of themselves when looking at the season ahead, and Naomi Osaka had a calendar Grand Slam in her thoughts after winning the season-opening Australian Open in 2019.

She had also triumphed at the US Open at the end of 2018, and the Japanese star was beginning to think she might enjoy an invincible year at the majors, only to stumble to a third-round French Open defeat to Katerina Siniakova.

Osaka said: "I think I was overthinking this calendar slam. For me this is something that I have wanted to do forever, but I have to think about it like if it was that easy, everyone would have done it."

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