WIMBLEDON, England -- Rafael Nadal's brutal, blistering game puts incredible stress on his body.
Nadal missed the 2009 event here at the All England Club because his knees acted up. And during his fourth-round match this year against Juan Martin del Potro, it looked like Nadal might be forced to check out early. He injured his left foot in the first set, and the pained expression on his face seemed genuine.
Del Potro was not convinced, though, when Nadal asked for a medical timeout before the tiebreaker. The Argentine, according to reports, told umpire Carlos Ramos that he was being hoodwinked. A subsequent MRI scan revealed "nothing serious" and Rafa was cleared for Wednesday's quarterfinal action.
Although No. 2 seed Novak Djokovic struggled at times before advancing and No. 3 Roger Federer was bounced from the tournament by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the No. 1 seed was who we thought he was. Nadal dispatched Mardy Fish 6-3, 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 and, aside from a few errors, looked OK doing it.
When the match was done, Rafa ran to his changeover chair after celebrating, and then took off his shirt as the crowd erupted with more enthusiastic applause. He was a tad subdued in his postmatch interview on the BBC.
"I lost little bit the intensity in the third and some moments in the fourth," Nadal said. "I played too defensive. But to be in semifinals again is a dream for me."
Thus, the last American in the singles draw is out. Nadal has now beaten Fish in each of their six matches. For Fish, 29, it was a nice run. This was the third major quarterfinal of his career, but he has yet to reach the semifinals.
Nadal has now won 19 straight matches here going back to his 2008 title run. The pressure is mounting; Rafa must reach the final and beat someone other than Djokovic to retain his No. 1 ranking. Nadal will play Andy Murray in the semifinals on Saturday.
How did the foot hold up?
"Today, was better," Nadal said. "I'm fine."
Four other things I know I think:
Murray is one hot ticket: Henman Hill was crawling with customers not lucky enough to possess Centre Court tickets Wednesday. A 20-pound grounds pass is all it takes to get a seat in front of the large electronic screen outside Court No. 1 (a pitcher of Pimm's costs the same). To be inside, to support Murray's bid to become the first British champion in 75 years, is not so reasonable. Before Murray's quarterfinal match with Feliciano Lopez, according to reports, Centre Court tickets were going for upwards of 10,000 pounds online -- about $16,000.
The Bryan brothers, as always, are built to last: It took them 4 hours, 11 minutes, but the No. 1 seed advanced to the doubles quarterfinals. It wasn't Isner-Mahut, but the score line was impressive: 6-3, 4-6, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 16-14. Bob and Mike Bryan broke Simon Aspelin and Paul Hanley in the 29th game of the fifth set. The final frame required triple-digit minutes and matched the fifth-set score when Roger Federer beat Andy Roddick in the 2009 final. Next up: the unseeded team of American James Cerretani, a graduate of Brown University (international relations and business economics, 2004), and German Philipp Marx.
Sabine Lisicki is blowing up: The German wild card's run into the semifinals has had a profound effect on her social-networking grid. After beating Marion Bartoli in Tuesday's quarterfinals, Lisicki's website, sabinelisicki.com, crashed when 15,000 people flocked to it. Since beating Li Na in the second round, her Facebook followers have doubled, to 40,000.
Wimbledon Village pub power rankings: (1) The Fire Stables. At the top of Church Street, this low-key-but-classy gastro pub has terrific food; the calf's liver and gnocchi with mushrooms are particularly strong this year. (2) The Dog & Fox. A sprawling, teeming establishment on High Street with a beer garden and -- shocker -- oceans of beer. Live music on weekends and, when it gets late, splashed pints all around. (3) The Rose and Crown. This traditional High Street pub is quiet and comfortable, with worn sofas and fireplaces. The perfect place to catch up on reading or conversation. And beer.
Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.