Give Uncle Toni credit for honesty.
Toni Nadal, Rafael's uncle and coach, watched Wimbledon's defending champion put in about an hour of practice on a left foot that's not as seriously injured as first feared, then offered this assessment to a handful of reporters Tuesday:
"Even if he was 50 percent, I would tell you he's 100 percent. But he will be 100 percent. Everything's fine."
The top-seeded Nadal plays 10th-seeded Mardy Fish of the United States in Wednesday's quarterfinals at the All England Club. The other quarterfinals are No. 2 Novak Djokovic against 18-year-old Bernard Tomic of Australia, No. 3 Roger Federer against No. 12 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France, and No. 4 Andy Murray against unseeded Feliciano Lopez of Spain.
If the favorites all win, it would be the first time that the top four seeded men all reached the semifinals at Wimbledon since 1995, when Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Boris Becker and Goran Ivanisevic did it. Nadal, Djokovic, Federer and Murray filled out the final four at the French Open earlier this month; there never have been consecutive Grand Slam tournaments with Nos. 1-4 in the semifinals during the Open era, which began in 1968.
"I don't remember four guys dominating as much as these guys have. The separation from them to (Nos.) 5-20 is such a gap," Sampras said via telephone from California on Tuesday. "These four guys are just better movers than everyone else; they're better athletes."
Past results suggest the quarterfinals shouldn't present too many problems for the sport's leading men.
Consider, first of all, the head-to-head records: Nadal is 5-0 vs. Fish; Federer is 4-1 vs. Tsonga; Murray is 4-0 vs. Lopez; Djokovic and Tomic never have played.
Now take a look at their respective accomplishments.
Nadal's 10 Grand Slam titles include two at Wimbledon, where he is 30-2 since the start of the 2006 tournament, with two runner-up finishes.
Federer owns six Wimbledon championships — one short of the record shared by Sampras and Willie Renshaw, who won his in the 1880s — and a record total of 16 Grand Slam titles. Djokovic twice has won the Australian Open and is a two-time Wimbledon semifinalist. Murray has reached three major finals and been to two Wimbledon semifinals.
The other four quarterfinalists have a grand total of one Grand Slam runner-up finish: Tsonga's at the 2008 Australian Open. Fish (0-2 in major quarterfinals), Lopez (also 0-2) and Tomic (making his major quarterfinal debut) haven't been to a Grand Slam semifinal yet.
"This is obviously a huge tournament for me. Suits my game probably better than any other tournament for me, Grand Slam-wise," said Fish, who eliminated 2010 Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych in the fourth round and has lost serve only once all tournament. "I felt, like, maybe it's one of those ones that I really wanted to do well at. In the quarterfinals, feels great again. I'll have another tough one, for sure."
Nothing comes easily against Nadal, even if he isn't completely fit.
During his fourth-round victory over 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro on Monday, Nadal felt significant pain in his left foot in the first set and initially worried it might be broken; he had to miss the French Open and Wimbledon in 2004 when he fractured that foot.
Nadal went on to beat Del Potro, then headed to a London hospital later that night for an MRI exam. The results showed swelling around a tendon, but nothing major, according to Ignacio Munoz, a doctor with the Spanish Tennis Federation.
"For tomorrow," Toni Nadal said, "there will be no problem."
Sampras expected all along that Federer would eventually match him with a seventh Wimbledon title.
On Tuesday, Sampras said he figures Nadal will reach his career total of 14 Grand Slam championships and possibly could surpass Federer's 16, too.
"If you break down his game and what he's been able to do on all surfaces, he's only (25), and he's got 10 majors; you do the math," said Sampras, who'll be joined by Agassi and other past greats of the game in the Champions Series in September and October.
"The all-time record is a lot of work, and Roger obviously can continue to add to his list," Sampras said. "But if Rafa is smart with his schedule and plans it out right, he can very well do it. We all know how hard he works."
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