Fans hitched to Nadal band­wagon grow­ing

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTSBRIEFING - By Steven Wine

WIM­BLE­DON, Eng­land — The Bri­tish lady with the straw hat sit­ting in the stands be­hind Rafael Nadal’s chair be­gan the Wim­ble­don quar­ter­fi­nal match cheer­ing for the other player, Robin Soder­ling.

By the third set, as Nadal took con­trol, the woman had switched al­le­giances.

“Vamos!” she shouted be­tween points.

The Nadal band­wagon is be­com­ing big­ger now that he’s back in the semi­fi­nals at Wim­ble­don. And with six-time cham­pion Roger Fed­erer elim­i­nated, the topranked Nadal be­comes the fa­vorite.

The Spa­niard plays to­day against No. 4-seeded Andy Mur­ray, try­ing to be­come the first Bri­tish man in 72 years to reach the Wim­ble­don fi­nal. The other semi­fi­nal pits No. 3 No­vak Djokovic against No. 12 To­mas Berdych, who up­set Fed­erer on Wed­nes­day.

It’s an im­pres­sive cast, even with Fed­erer ab­sent from the semi­fi­nals for the first time since 2002. Mur­ray and Berdych have been long touted as fu­ture Grand Slam cham­pi­ons, while Djokovic has re­dis­cov­ered the form that helped him win the 2008 Aus­tralian Open.

And then there’s Nadal, the King of Clay who has also be­come a for­mi­da­ble force on grass. He was the run­ner-up to Fed­erer at Wim­ble­don in 2006 and 2007, won when they met again in the 2008 fi­nal and missed last year’s tour­na­ment be­cause of knee ten­dini­tis.

Nadal has won 12 matches in a row at the All Eng­land Club, and 23 straight at Wim­ble­don against play­ers other than Fed­erer.

“He’s ob­vi­ously a very tough player on any sur­face,” Mur­ray said, “but he plays great ten­nis here.”

Rafael Nadal

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