Nadal in Queen’s last eight after Stepanek test


Rafael Nadal had to dig deep to reach the quarter-finals at Queen’s with a hard-fought 6-3, 5-7, 6-1 win against Czech veteran Radek Stepanek on Thursday.
Few players have made the switch from clay to grass courts more effectively than Nadal, but the French Open champion is taking a while to find his feet on the lush lawns of west London as he prepares for the defence of his Wimbledon title.
The top seeded Spaniard admits he could do with some time off as he is still drained by his heroics in Paris and the strain showed a little during this inconsistent display.
“He made it tough and I’m a bit tired. I had a few mistakes but the crowd are fantastic and it’s a pleasure to be here,” Nadal said.
“I am motivated to keep playing well. Wimbledon is there, but I’m focused on Queen’s for now. I will have to play well against (Jo-Wilfried) Tsonga to win.”
So far Nadal has struggled to recapture the magical shot-making that dazzled Roger Federer in the French Open final.
He looked comfortable enough in the first set on Thursday and got the only break in the fifth game as a powerful backhand pass left Stepanek rooted to the spot.
The second set seemed to be following a similar pattern when Nadal broke for a 3-1 lead.
This time Stepanek, aided by some sloppy play from Nadal, broke back as the Spaniard served for the match.
Encouraged by that escape, Stepanek took advantage of a series of Nadal double faults to break again and then serve out the set.
At such pressurised moments Nadal usually finds the winning formula.
So it proved in the final set as he finally found some momentum, breaking twice in succession to set up a last eight clash against French fifth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
World number four Andy Murray ignored the pain of his ankle injury to reach the last eight with a 6-4, 7-6 (7/3) win over Serbian 14th seed Janko Tipsarevic.
Murray has conceded that the recovery time for the ligament and tendon damage he sustained at the French Open means he should really be resting this week, but a desire to get plenty of time on grass before Wimbledon has forced him to ignore his discomfort.
The 24-year-old did a reasonable job of disguising the pain as he secured a last eight match against Croatia’s Marin Cilic, who beat Thomaz Bellucci 7-6 (7/3), 0-6, 6-3.
“It was a high-quality match. We both played well, especially at the end of the second set. It was a big test,” Murray said. “The ankle was the best it’s felt today.”
Elsewhere in the third round of the Wimbledon warm-up, Andy Roddick remained in the hunt for a record fifth Queen’s crown with a 6-4, 6-4 win over South Africa’s Kevin Anderson.
The American third seed, a three-time Wimbledon finalist, thrives on grass and he did just enough to see off 15th seed Anderson and seal a last eight clash against Fernando Verdasco, who defeated David Nalbandian 7-5, 6-1.
“There are a lot of times when he hits his first serve in a good spot and you’re rendered a little helpless. Thankfully I was just able to get my teeth into a couple of games and convert the break points,” Roddick said.
France’s Adrian Mannarino enjoyed a remarkable double success as he reached the last eight on his Queen’s debut.
Mannarino started the day with his second round tie against French sixth seed Gilles Simon delicately poised at one set all overnight.
But Simon had to pull out when trailing 3-0 in the final set due to a back injury. And Mannarino, ranked 54th in the world, followed that win with an even better result just hours later as the 22-year-old defeated former US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro 7-6 (7/3), 7-6 (9/7). Mannarino will play either defending champion Sam Querrey or British wildcard James Ward after their match was suspended due to bad light at one set all.