There was once a time in tennis when Spanish players and grass courts never quite got on with each other, as highlighted by the 42-year barren spell for Spaniards here at Wimbledon between Manuel Santana’s victory in 1966 and Rafael Nadal’s in 2008.
For Fernando Verdasco, though, the lawn of England is where he has found his form this year. The world No.54’s 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 victory over Kenny De Schepper sees him through to the quarter-finals at Wimbledon for the first time in 11 attempts. It is just the second occasion this year that Verdasco has reached the last eight of a tournament, following his run to the quarter-finals in Eastbourne a fortnight ago.
In an intriguing battle between two left-handers, Verdasco got off to the perfect start, breaking the serve of 6ft 8in De Schepper in the opening game. No mean feat considering that De Schepper was later serving at speeds of up to 138mph, although Verdasco maintained the break and took the first set as De Schepper hit a backhand wide.
At times Verdasco’s play was reminiscent of that which took him to the Australian Open semi-finals in 2009. Confident and aggressive with his forehand, he got the early break in the second set for 2-1, but had to save a break point at 4-3 before going on to claim a two set lead.
De Schepper threatened a renaissance in the third set when he converted on just his second break point of the match for 3-1, hitting a forehand return on the run. Verdasco threatened to immediately break back but more big serving from De Schepper helped him save three break points before he held with a 130mph second serve.
That was the last game De Schepper was to claim. Verdasco reeled off five consecutive games, clinching the win with a stunning cross-court backhand, before performing a victory dance in tribute to the Spanish singer El Fary, of whom Verdasco’s coach Ricardo Sanchez is a big fan.
Having won 12 sets in a row since losing the first set to Xavier Malisse in the first round, he will be a dangerous opponent for Andy Murray in the quarter-finals. Verdasco may be on the wrong end of an 8-1 head-to-head record but he can take heart from his sole victory over the Brit which came at the Australian Open in 2009.
“I'm happy to be here”, said Verdasco. “I'm happy how I played the whole tournament. In the next match it is going to be just one more match for me. Of course, it is going to be a special match because it is going to be against Murray here in Wimbledon in the quarter-finals.
“I'm going to go out there and try to do my game like I did every match and like I try to do every match that I play. But I know it is going to be, of course, a tough match. He's No. 2 of the tournament. He's a great player, one of the best players in the last years on tour. Of course it is going to be difficult to beat him also with the crowd and everything. you need to have faith and try your best to try to win.”Follow the latest news and scores from Wimbledon 2013 on Wimbledon.com or download the official iPad, iPhone and Android apps
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