Nadal faces scan on foot after battling victory

Rafael Nadal yesterday overcame both an ankle injury and a truly formidable opponent to extend his Wimbledon winning streak to 18 matches and reach the quarter-finals, where he will meet the tenth seed, American Mardy Fish. The defending champion beat the towering Argentinian Juan Martin Del Potro 7-6, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 in an enthralling and incident-packed contest, the ominous skies overhead matched by the mood on Centre Court, especially when it seemed as if Nadal might be unable to continue.

After a lengthy medical time-out in the first set, however, the Majorcan seemed confident that he could rely on his heavily-strapped left foot – on which he will have an MRI scan today – and clinched the tiebreaker having trailed 0-3. But his opponent, angry both to have been made to wait for so long and to have conceded the tiebreaker with a double-fault, played thunderously in the second set, becoming the first man all tournament to take a set off Nadal.

He is also the first, and only, man to defeat both Nadal and Roger Federer in the same Grand Slam, which he did en route to winning the US Open in 2009. Del Potro has suffered grievous injury problems since then, requiring surgery on damaged right wrist tendons and missing almost the whole of last year, but nevertheless entered this contest with the swagger of a former Grand Slam champion. From the first exchanges there was plainly no sense of inferiority in the No 24 seed, who after all has climbed as high as world No 4, and in eight previous encounters with the world No 1 lagged only 3-5.

Del Potro is a devout Catholic, and also fervently believes that he is watched over on the tennis court by an older sister, killed in a road accident as a child. He carries with him an intense inner conviction that he is destined for the top. It was that conviction that helped him claim his US Open title, the championship he had always, growing up in Tandil, craved above all others.

Yet there was no doubting, in the south-west London gloaming last night, his burning desire to reach his first Grand Slam quarter-final since that victory at Flushing Meadows. Nadal was duly forced to scale the sublime heights of which he, and sometimes only he, is capable. But not until 2-2 in the fourth set did he break the mighty Del Potro serve. Both men played simply irresistible tennis, serving beautifully, belting winners down both flanks at the kind of speeds that the watching Red Bull driver Mark Webber might have recognised, and making gasp-inducing retrievals.

No less than Nadal, Del Potro was in the mood to take no prisoners. It has sometimes been suggested that the tallest man to win a Grand Slam is not best suited to grass, that at 6ft 6in he is just too tall to cope with the lower bounces that grass courts generate. But here he looked at least as comfortable on the green stuff as the bulls out on the Pampas. Boris Becker suggested the other day that there is simply no point trading baseline howitzers with Nadal, that the only way to beat him is to mix things up. That is what Del Potro did, wonderfully. But still the man on the other side of the net was, in the end, too good.

Showing how pumped up he was for the encounter, Nadal opened by serving faster than he had all tournament. And Del Potro was out of the blocks just as quickly, reaching 134mph in his own opening service game. "Vamos" was the repeated enjoinder on both sides, with the crowd making its own contribution to Spanish-speaking culture with a series of Mexican waves during the prolonged treatment to Nadal's foot. Later, Del Potro too needed medical attention, after slipping in the third set and damaging a hip.

Even without the medics it was a match full of incident, with Nadal furious to be given a time violation at 4-4 and 15-15. But it was his injury that at one point looked like dominating today's headlines. With uncle Toni, his coach, looking anxiously down, could it be that the defending champion, bidding to retain a Wimbledon title for the first time, and also to become only the second man after Bjorn Borg to win the Roland Garros-Wimbledon double on three occasions, might have to retire?

To the audible relief of the crowd, he soldiered on in pursuit of his 11th Grand Slam singles title, which would move him level with the great Rod Laver. Had Laver been present yesterday, he could have been forgiven for echoing what Bobby Jones once said about Jack Nicklaus: that Nadal, and Del Potro as well, play a game with which he is not familiar.

Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck stars as prime suspect Nick Dunne in the film adaptation of Gone Girl
filmBen Affleck and Rosamund Pike excel in David Fincher's film, says Geoffrey Macnab
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Life and Style
fashionThe supermodel on her career, motherhood and Cara Delevingne
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments