Tennis Freaks

“1821: Nadal, I’ve noticed, has a problem with his shorts, in that they keep on getting stuck up his jacksie and he has to pull them out before every point. Not sure why he doesn’t just get a size up, he’s probably loaded.”

Youzhny v Nadal as it happened

Wimbledon fourth round latest:

M YOUZHNY (Rus) 14 v R NADAL (Sp) 2

6-4 6-3 1-6 2-6 2-6

FIFTH SET

Youzhny 6-4 6-3 1-6 2-6 2-6 Nadal
Rafa makes no mistake when it matters most, holding to love and holiding his arms aloft as Court Two gets to its collective feet to give a standing ovation to two players who have produced a quite brilliant tennis match. Congratulations to Rafa for a simply magnificent comeback and, while I’m at it, congratulations to my girlfriend’s brother Tim for becoming a father for the first time just a few hours ago. Nice one pal.

Youzhny 6-4 6-3 1-6 2-6 2-5 Nadal
Every time Youz wins a point, Court Two erupts. It’s like these people don’t ever want me to eat again. Naturally, we go to deuce and from Rafa’s first match point, Youz drop-shots a little beauty to stay in it. Why don’t they just play that shot every time? Somehow, Youz finds the strength to hold and, credit to him, makes Rafa come out and serve for the game.

Youzhny 6-4 6-3 1-6 2-6 1-5 Nadal
After the Lord Mayor’s show, from the sublime to the ridiculous, call it what you like, but after a truly breathtaking game, Rafa shuts up shop and blows Youz into oblivion with a destructive show of power. The phrase ‘you don’t return those’ was made for that game, which ends with an ace. One more game for Rafa to reach the quarters.

Youzhny 6-4 6-3 1-6 2-6 1-4 Nadal
What a fantastic game. Youz is desperately trying to hang in there and after another slug-fest, he unfurls a stunning forehand into the corner. But a lazy backhand takes us to deuce and after some cracking tennis from both players, Rafa’s blistering power proves too much. Double break for Rafa, heartbreak for Youz, almost lunchbreak for me. Almost.

Youzhny 6-4 6-3 1-6 2-6 1-3 Nadal
At 15-15, Rafa gets a massive slice of luck courtesy of an outrageous net cord. He takes full advantage, with Youz now looking badly out of sorts and the Russian goes fractionally wide as Rafa forges two games ahead. It’s slipping away from Youz now.

Youzhny 6-4 6-3 1-6 2-6 1-2 Nadal
Ah, the return of the drop shot. Cheers Rafa, I’d almost forgotten about it. It’s the only shot stopping these two from permanently and powerfully slogging their guts out. Crucially, Rafa earns two break points and a typically pinpoint forehand gets him in front. Surely he’s not going to relinquish this lead now?

Youzhny 6-4 6-3 1-6 2-6 1-1 Nadal
The Rafa contingent hit back with some ole’s of their own, only for their man to wallop a forehand a country mile beyond the baseline. He gets into a bit of trouble at 15-30, but the forehand radar is back on track with a couple of crackers and we’re 2-2, 1-1, game on.

Youzhny 6-4 6-3 1-6 2-6 1-0 Nadal
Huge cheers reverberate around Court Two and the crowd are desperate for the Russian to put up some resistance in this set. Every point he wins is roundly applauded and, quite unexpectedly, he holds to love. Should have known this set wasn’t going to be a walkover, needing, as I do, both the toilet and my lunch. Ah well.

FOURTH SET

Youzhny 6-4 6-3 1-6 2-6 Nadal
Brutally efficient is what Rafa’s being now. Youz is barely in the game and Rafa holds with mimimum of fuss to square it up at two sets all. I don’t fancy the Russian’s chances in the fifth set, but then what do I know? Save your emails, the answer is, A) Not a lot.

Youzhny 6-4 6-3 1-6 2-5 Nadal
Rafa is all over Youz. There is no escape from the number two seed and he fairly hops and skips to the net to batter in another close-range volley. When he misses, he looks furious with himself, a touch of the John McEnroe’s about that, for sure. Youz nets a simple volley and this set, much like the last one, has been nothing short of a demolition.

Youzhny 6-4 6-3 1-6 2-4 Nadal
If Youz was 100% fit he’d be having problems right now, such is Rafa’s remarkable consistency of hitting. The Spaniard holds to love and it’s difficult to see how he is not going to win this match now.

Youzhny 6-4 6-3 1-6 2-3 Nadal
Phenomenal hitting from Rafa, who is finding the sweet spot of his racket almost every shot. The forehand is doing irreparable damage and only Youz’s first serve is keeping him at bay. Just holding his serve has become a marathon task, but, just, he makes it.

Youzhny 6-4 6-3 1-6 1-3 Nadal
There’s no stopping Rafa now and two aces help him close out another comfortable hold. Youz is getting frustrated with himself and mutters something (presumably in Russian) barely audible under his breath as he falls further behind.

Youzhny 6-4 6-3 1-6 1-2 Nadal
Must have cursed the drop shot there. Rafa hits a lame one into the net and then out of nowhere the umbrellas go up. Rafa’s so used to this, he races straight to his chair, but, to huge cheers from the masses, the umpire decides to play on. What a legend. Rafa takes maximum possible advantage by lashing home a forehand to earn a break point and then Youz goes woefully wide to hand Rafa the advantage. Youz is clearly in trouble and has yet more treatment, this time with his left leg hoisted high in the air. Looks a touch painful, but it worked (briefly) last time.

Youzhny 6-4 6-3 1-6 1-1 Nadal
Amazingly, Youz is once again matching Rafa’s power and some of the rallies are mesmerising. Usually the power exchange is interrupted by a drop shot, with both players showing soft hands at times. Anyway, Rafa holds and the Spaniards’ supporters in the crowd are lifting the decibel level a notch into the bargain.

Youzhny 6-4 6-3 1-6 1-0 Nadal
At times, it’s been drop shot o’clock on Court Two. I love it when the reply to one drop-shot is another one, genius, and Youz pulls it off brilliantly. Rafa makes his sweat at 40-30, but the Spaniard goes wide and Youz takes an early lead. He was battered around by the trainer, but by gum it seems to have done the job so far.

1305 BST: The trainer comes on for Mikhail Youzhny, who appears to have some problems with his back. What do you mean it’s just a ploy to interrupt Rafa’s flow? Surely not.

THIRD SET

Youzhny 6-4 6-3 1-6 Nadal
All of a sudden, Rafa doesn’t look like a man playing his millionth day on the trot. He is positively electric and has raced through that set in no time at all. That booming forehand has warmed up nicely, too. Five sets anyone?

Youzhny 6-4 6-3 1-5 Nadal
Pressure, pressure, pressure. Youz’s game has dropped 5% and Rafa is all over him like a rash. Two big serves claw it back from 0-30, but two simple forehands into the net give Rafa the double break and this set is largely all over.

Youzhny 6-4 6-3 1-4 Nadal
Youz hits back by taking his awesome backhand out of the top drawer and he suddenly finds another gear to get to 0-30. The Rafael Nadal of an hour ago might just have buckled, but not a bit of it now. He gets it right on his serve and whacks down an ace to move 4-1 ahead.

Youzhny 6-4 6-3 1-3 Nadal
Rafa is on fire now, hitting lines with just about every shot. A couple of big serves help Youz hold and he is off the mark in the set, but the Russian really is coming under massive pressure now.

Youzhny 6-4 6-3 0-3 Nadal
A fabulous rally that has the crowd off their seats ends with Youz putting away a volley, but he blows the next two and Rafa ploughs further ahead in the set. A stunning forehand hands him the game and he bounces back to his chair looking totally reinvigorated.

Youzhny 6-4 6-3 0-2 Nadal
Much, much more like it from Rafa. He finally gets his first break point of the match courtesy of a wonderful forehand down the line and Youz double faults to gift Rafa an early break in the third set. The pump is back to stay, too.

Youzhny 6-4 6-3 0-1 Nadal
A rare blip from the until now metronomic Youz, while Rafa gets his forehand back up and running with a couple of crackers. it’s now or never for the number two seed.

SECOND SET

Youzhny 6-4 6-3 Nadal
It’s pump-up time. Rafa saves a set point with a great approach and a volley and gives it the big ‘un for the first time today. But Youz hits back at deuce, putting away a classy volley and then Rafa goes wide to hand the Russian the set. If Rafa’s gonna win, it’s gonna have to be five sets again. The sun has broken through and Mikhail Youzhny is in dreamland.

Youzhny 6-4 5-3 Nadal
Rafa cannot cope with the brute force of Youz’s backhand, but three unreturnable serves dig him out of this particular hole and he at least makes the Russian serve for the set.

Youzhny 6-4 5-2 Nadal
Rafa takes out a new racket, but Youz powers on regardless, his strength and clever use of the court just proving too much for the weary Spaniard. Rafa, who usually gets everything back, has failed to return 18 Youz serves. He’s now serving to stay in the second set.

Youzhny 6-4 4-2 Nadal
Rafa goes long and hammers a ball away in sheer frustration at his own inaccuracy. Youz takes advantage with another clean forehand winner before Rafa gets to 30-30 with one of those Pete Sampras look-how-high-I-can-jump type smashes. Bad shot, good shot as Youz takes it to deuce, but Rafa, digging in as only he can, manages to hold.

Youzhny 6-4 4-1 Nadal
Great reach from the Russian as he extends himself at the net to volley home and, despite one outrageous backhand winner from Rafa, Youz blasts one on to the line himself to wrap it up. “I’m a bit tired, for sure,” said Rafa yesterday. He looks it, too.

Youzhny 6-4 3-1 Nadal
Rafa gets off the mark courtesy of some coolness at the net, an ace, a brutal forehand and a mis-hit from Youz. Somehow, he has now got to find a way of breaking back.

“Nadal would probably relish a weather break right now.”
BBC Sport commentator Andrew Castle

Youzhny 6-4 3-0 Nadal
A couple of awesome winners each takes us to deuce whereupon Youz steps up a notch and holds. This really is impressive stuff from the 25-year-old, who is coolness personified so far. He also looks a bit like Chelsea schemer Joe Cole, as a colleague has just pointed out.

Youzhny 6-4 2-0 Nadal
Not exactly the quickest player on tour anyway, Rafa slows things right down here. But Youz is happy to wait, cracking two clean forehand winners to take the game to deuce and then pasting another formidable backhand cross-court for a monstrous winner. He blows one break point but rapidly earns another and after a monumental rally he slams a short ball back for a winner to earn more daylight.

Youzhny 6-4 1-0 Nadal
I was warned about Youz’s backhand and my word is that a proper tennis shot. He smears one across court before even Rafa can react and holds pretty easily yet again.

FIRST SET

Youzhny 6-4 Nadal
Unbelievable scenes on Court Two. Rafa double faults at 15-30 to hand Youz two set points and from the first break point of the set he takes the advantage. The rally that takes him ahead is a cracker, with a lightning-quick volley exchange at the net before Rafa sends a forehand wide.

Youzhny 5-4 Nadal
Rafa wins a fabulous rally with a full-stretch volley, but Youz is keeping his cool under pressure well and his first serve is winning him a fair few free-ish (well they’re never totally free against Rafa) points. An ace at 40-30 works the oracle again.

Youzhny 4-4 Nadal
Rafa uses the new balls to hit even heavier shots, including a smashing a ball so hard from close-range it may never be seen again. The power of this guy is immense.

Youzhny 4-3 Nadal
Just as Youz prepares to hold for love, Rafa obliterates a backhand down the line, shot of the match so far. Youz then nets a simple forehand, before Rafa pulls his drop-shot out of the locker to take us to deuce. A couple of big serves bail him out just in the nick of time.

Youzhny 3-3 Nadal
Rafa takes his cue from Youz and holds to love, his first serve improving all the time under the murky Wimbledon skies. How he must be praying the rain holds off.

Youzhny 3-2 Nadal
Youz hits back with another sumptuous drop shot and holds to love, throwing his first ace into the mixer while he’s at it. Cool stuff so far from the Russian.

Youzhny 2-2 Nadal
Twice Rafa goes long to fall 0-30 behind. But two clinical aces level matters and then Youz goes long to hand the Spaniard the game. Just another hint of trouble for Nadal, which he came through with his cutomary aplomb.

Youzhny 2-1 Nadal
Wow. Standing four yards behind the baseline, Rafa rockets a forehand right into the corner for a blistering winner. Not that Youz cares, mind, as his serve and backhand help him to the next four points without reply.

Youzhny 1-1 Nadal
A double fault puts Rafa under early pressure, but some heavy forehands see him through. He never makes you feel like it’s gonna be easy though.

Youzhny 1-0 Nadal
A couple of brilliant volleys from Youz and a drop shot to dream about early doors, as he wins his service game to love.

1114 BST: Just in case you’ve forgotten, that last match against Robin Soderling took Rafa five days, five sets and, equally impressively, five of us doing the live clockwatch too. Surely that must be some sort of new world record? I mean the internet’s only about 17 days old.

1109 BST: As the players go through their warm-up routine, it begins to get ominously dark overhead. Rafa might just explode if this match is as rain-hit as his last one.

1100 BST: The head-to-head makes interesting reading. The Russian number 14 seed has beaten Rafa three times, all on hard courts, with the Spaniard triumphing on four occasions. “Mikhail is a great player,” hyped Nadal on Wednesday.

1050 BST: If there’s no rest for the wicked, Rafael Nadal must be a very, very evil man indeed. The Spaniard is about to step out on court for the fourth day in a row for his fourth round encounter with Mikhail Youzhny.

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