World # 1, 2nd seed, and 2008 Wimbledon Champion Rafael Nadal survived another tough 5 setter, coming back from 2 sets to 1 down in successive rounds, to beat talented German Philipp Petzschner, 6-4, 4-6, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-3 in 3 hours and 45 minutes earlier on Centre Court. Nadal faced a much taller order than it seemed in the first set, when the Spaniard was able to control play with his heavy forehand, earning a break of serve in the first game of the match and then holding for a 6-4 lead after one set.
Some 2 hours and 45 minutes later, Nadal had still not mustered another break against the very impressive German, who John McEnroe said, has a “totally perfect service motion.” Petzschner only saw 1 break opportunity on Nadal’s serve, and took advantage with quick hands at the net, knocking off a forehand volley to level the match at a set a piece. In the third set, Petzschner’s tactics really seemed to be bothering Nadal, who was also limited by physical problems. Petzschner (below), uniquely employing both a one handed slice backhand and an abbreviated motion one hander, along with a 2 handed backhand, either sliced back Nadal’s topspin or blocked it back by taking the ball early, using Nadal’s pace, which gave Nadal enormous problems.
Petzschner’s perfect service motion produced 25 aces and many clutch serves in the first three sets, as even though he got down a mini break in the third set tie breaker, he was still able to serve out the set. Nadal seemed bothered by his left elbow, which was one of the reasons he had trainers out to Centre Court in the third set. Later, Nadal received a massage to his right knee area, a chronic trouble spot for the grinder due to his style of play. Nadal was also unnerved when he received a warning for receiving coaching, which Mary Carillo called “about time.”
The 26 year old Petzschner, largely a doubles specialist until last year, played a phenomenal three sets against Nadal, and had his opportunities to eliminate the Spaniard–the 2nd straight match in which Nadal looked imminently beatable. Petzschner, the world # 44, came in to the year around 80, and has caught our eye with his impressive variety and touch, which he had on display today, as well as his guts–the German approached the net 71 times in the match, served and volleyed frequently, and had to make several difficult half volleys. In fact, Petzschner seemed to have a great gameplan in place against Nadal, one that Roger Federer should have taken copious notes on.
Nadal, who said after the match that his injuries have resulted from playing so many matches in the last few months, said his knee was “not so bad.” He will face Frenchman Paul Henri Matthieu in the round of 16, who we can’t recall ever giving Rafa much trouble.
But Nadal could face a troublesome quarter-final matchup should favorites win out. Robin Soderling, who beat Thomaz Bellucci in straights today, could face Nadal in the quarter-finals.