Nadal fit to face Fish after rally with 16-year-old from Llanelli

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Evan Hoyt, a 16-year-old from Llanelli who is based at the Reed's School Academy in Surrey, lost in the second round of the boys' competition here yesterday but left the All England Club with a much better tale to tell. In the middle of the afternoon he was asked if he would like to practise with a useful left-hander on one of Wimbledon's indoor courts.

Rafael Nadal's team had not organised a hitting partner for their practice session and when they went in search of a likely candidate Hoyt stepped forward. If the British junior looked understandably nervous as he traded shots with Nadal, the world No 1 was probably equally apprehensive. Having suffered a foot injury during his victory over Juan Martin del Potro on Monday evening, the 25-year-old Spaniard had an MRI scan before being given the all-clear to go ahead and prepare for his quarter-final today against Mardy Fish.

Nadal, who appeared to have no problem with his foot during the training session, is on an 18-match winning streak here, having won the title on his two previous appearances. He has dropped only one set so far in this year's tournament – to Del Potro – and should fancy his chances against Fish. The 29-year-old American's serve-and-volley game is well suited to grass, but in 11 years on the professional tour he has never gone beyond the third round at Wimbledon.

Fish, nevertheless, is currently at a career-best No 9 in the world rankings. The highest-ranked American in the game has never reached the semi-finals of a Grand Slam tournament but has been in the best form of his life since losing more than two stone in weight the winter before last. He has dropped serve only once in 65 service games in his first four matches here, fewer than any other player.

In terms of entertainment the match of the day is likely to be Roger Federer's quarter-final against France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, which is the opening match on Centre Court. Federer has won the title here six times, while Tsonga is one of the game's great entertainers, who loves throwing himself around a grass court. Federer has won four of their five meetings, Tsonga's only success coming in Montreal two years ago.

Novak Djokovic has been the most successful player around this year, having lost only one match since the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London last November. The 24-year-old Serb has won seven titles during that run, including the Australian Open for a second time. His only defeat came at the hands of Federer in the semi-finals at Roland Garros. If he reaches the final here on Sunday he will replace Nadal as world No 1, even if the Spaniard wins the title.

Today Djokovic faces one of the game's great emerging talents. Bernard Tomic, a former world junior No 1, is only 18 years old but has played with great maturity in his first four matches, beating Nikolay Davydenko, Igor Andreev, Robin Soderling and Xavier Malisse. If he beats Djokovic he will be the youngest semi-finalist here since Boris Becker in 1986. Federer was the last teenager to reach the quarter-finals, in 2001, when he was beaten by Tim Henman.

Tomic came through qualifying to reach the main draw. In the first round of the qualifying tournament he was 15-40 down on his own serve at 6-4, 5-7, 4-4 against Germany's Sebastien Rieschick before recovering to win. Even if he loses today he will break into the world's top 100 players at around No 72. If he manages to beat the resolute Djokovic he will make the world's top 50.

Seeds of destruction

If Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Andy Murray win today they will be the first top four seeds to reach the semi-finals at Wimbledon since 1995, the year of Pete Sampras's third victory at the All England Club.

Sampras went on to beat Boris Becker in the last of the German's seven Wimbledon finals. Andre Agassi, one of the beaten semi-finalists, had won Wimbledon three years earlier, while Goran Ivanisevic was to win the title six years later, after three defeats in finals.