Although he had beaten Nadal 12 years ago at Wimbledon, few gave him a chance on Monday against the fourth seed and French Open champion.
The Spaniard fell in one of the best – and longest – matches of the tournament so far, losing to veteran Gilles Müller 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 15-13 in four hours and 48 minutes. He only lost to Thiem at the quarter-finals at Rome but he soon came back on the winning course at the French open.
“I played with the right determination, right passion, right attitude”, Nadal said, “to win the match”.
Second seed Novak Djokovic’s fourth-round match against Frenchman Adrian Mannarino was moved to today.
But he has chanced on a rich vein of form over the past seven months and Wimbledon recognised his quality by elevating him to 16th seeding.
Because, when all the gasping and I-was-there exclaiming fades away, what’s left is what is a massively diminished spectacle with a great big gash in its gut, a bleeding-out wound.
The All England Lawn Tennis Club said moving the match from Court One would have created a “significant safety issue” because there were still 30,000 spectators inside the ground at 20:30 BST.
The intensity grew as both players held, and the deadlock was eventually broken in the 28th game of the set when 16th seed Muller sealed the match with a break of serve.
Sixth-seeded Konta survived a fightback from France’s Caroline Garcia to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals for the first time with a 7-6 (3) 4-6 6-4 victory.
Nadal conceded 34 games.
“Rafa is such a great fighter and after he saved four match points, I was starting to wonder if I’d win”. Yeah, I won matches.
Federer reached his 50th Grand Slam quarter-final and 15th at Wimbledon with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 win over Grigor Dimitrov.
The Spaniard hadn’t lost a set at a Major since his loss to Roger Federer in the Australian Open final in January but dropped the opening two sets to find himself two sets to love down.
With Nadal sending his final forehand long, it took a few moments for Muller to register that he had done it again.
Only Federer and Jimmy Connors (11 each) have reached more consecutive Wimbledon quarter-finals than Murray.
Magnanimous as ever, 15-times grand slam champion Nadal made no excuses, admitting Muller was the better player, but said he had wasted a golden opportunity to go all the way.
“Well done to him. He played great, especially in the fifth set but I fought to the last ball”. This year we arrived here with a better level, with more confidence. Nadal, from nowhere, suddenly hit long and Muller stood nearly disbelief.
First, he waited for Muller to pack up his belongings so the two could walk off the court together. Gilles Muller defeated the three-time champion here, Rafael Nadal, after 4 hours of fantastic battle. You could see that on Monday as Nadal, down two sets to none, went for more and screamed after every point he won.