Rafael Nadal dismissed concerns about his fitness last night after he had required a medical time-out in his easy fourth-round win over Mikhail Youzhny, and turned his thoughts to champagne. The Spanish beefcake, runner-up here the past two years to Roger Federer, made short work of his Russian opponent, 6-3, 6-3, 6-1, but only after receiving treatment early in the match. The No 2 seed slipped in the second game, landing awkwardly on his right leg while chasing a ball. "I felt a little bit of pain," he said afterwards. "I was a little bit scared because I felt something. A crack it seemed. But actually it's fine." Asked if there was even a moment when he felt like pulling out, he said emphatically: "No, no, I never thought about that."
Certainly the 22-year-old multiple French Open winner showed no signs of discomfort as he crushed a man who had beaten him 6-0, 6-1 in their last meeting in January. Youzhny, 26, did manage one break of Nadal's serve, but only one, while Nadal broke at will with a string of blistering winners. The champagne will be quaffed in honour of Spain's Euro 2008 victory, but only when Nadal's Wimbledon is over. He intends that to be on Sunday.
When his compatriots, including close friend Iker Casillas, defeated Germany two nights ago, he had to settle for a more restrained means of celebration. What did he do? "Jumping". Nadal already has five titles this year including his first on grass, secured at Queen's last month. He looks more at ease on the surface than ever before, and he almost had a "bagel" to show for it in the third set yesterday, storming to a 5-0 lead. But Youzhny held when Nadal netted, giving the crowd – firmly behind Nadal – cause to cheer for Youzhny too, purely out of sympathy. Nadal set up three match points with a forehand volley at the net and sealed the match with a deft drop shot. He was asked if he had the sense that the crowd were behind him for the title.
"Ask the crowd," he said. "I am not nobody [sic] for say what the crowd wants. I just can say when I go on court I feel the crowd support me a lot."