There was once a time in tennis when Spanish players and grass courts never quite went hand in hand, 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 grass 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 this year, 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.
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 either Andy Murray or Mikhail Youzhny in the quarter-finals.
20:24...But boy, it was a barrow-load of fun. I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as we did. Thank you for all your messages throughout, you've been the glue holding us together as the edges frayed amid the madness. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time for us Brits to raise a toast to Andy Murray and Fred Perry. British sporting legends both.
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