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Rafael Nadal loses to Gilles Muller in five-set Wimbledon battle

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 10: Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates during the Gentlemen's Singles fourth round match against Gilles Muller of Luxembourg on day seven of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on July 10, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images
Rafael Nadal fought off four match points but ultimately lost to Gilles Muller, dropping the fifth set, 15-13.

LONDON — Rafael Nadal kept getting pushed to the brink of defeat. He kept resisting.

He dropped the first two sets, then won the next two. He erased two match points in the riveting fifth set’s 10th game, then another two in its 20th game. Only when his fourth-round match against 16th-seeded Gilles Muller of Luxembourg stretched past 4½ hours, the sunlight fading, did Nadal blink.

After repeatedly digging himself out of difficult situations, Nadal finally succumbed, broken in the last game of a 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 15-13 loss to Muller on Monday.

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‘‘I played with the right determination, right passion, right attitude,’’ Nadal said, ‘‘to win the match.’’

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But the two-time Wimbledon champion extended his drought without a quarterfinal berth at the All England Club to six years.

‘‘Just tried to hang in there,’’ Muller said. ‘‘Still kept believing. Yeah, somehow in the end, I made it.’’

Nadal has won two of his 15 Grand Slam championships at Wimbledon, and played in the final three other times, most recently in 2011. But since then, Nadal has lost in the first round (2013), second round (2012, 2015), and fourth round (2014, 2017).

All of those losses, except Monday's, came against men ranked 100th or worse.

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Muller had lost 22 consecutive matches against foes ranked in the top five and only reached one Grand Slam quarterfinal, at the 2008 US Open.

But Muller’s powerful serve and crisp volleys make him what Nadal called ‘‘uncomfortable’’ to play.

And Muller — who already owned one victory over Nadal at Wimbledon, back in the second round in 2005 — managed to pull this one out.

Nadal served from behind throughout the final set and was twice a point from losing in its 10th game. He again was twice a point from losing in the 20th. Only when Muller got another chance to end it did he, when Nadal got broken by pushing a forehand long.

‘‘When you are in the fifth, against a player like him, (the outcome) just depends on a few balls,’’ Nadal said, shaking his head. ‘‘Actually, he was a little better than me on a few balls.’’

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Nadal converted only 2 of 16 break points, going 0 for 5 in the fifth set, four in one game, and was a big reason he lost despite 77 winners and 17 unforced errors.

Muller will play No. 7 Marin Cilic, who beat Roberto Bautista Agut, 6-2, 6-2, 6-2.

Other men’s quarterfinal matchups: Top seed Andy Murray against 24th-seeded American Sam Querrey, No. 3 Roger Federer against No. 6 Milos Raonic, and No. 11 Tomas Berdych against Novak Djokovic or Adrian Mannarino. Djokovic vs. Mannarino was postponed until Tuesday.

Federer beat Grigor Dimitrov, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4, while Murray topped Benoit Paire, 7-6 (7-1), 6-4, 6-4. Raonic turned aside 10th seed Alexander Zverev, 4-6, 7-5, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1, Berdych beat No. 8 Dominic Thiem, 6-3, 6-7 (1-7), 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, and Querrey beat Kevin Anderson, 5-7, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3, 6-7 (11-13), 6-3.

In the women’s draw, Venus Williams overpowered Ana Konjuh, 6-3, 6-2, 13th-seeded Jelena Ostapenko upset No. 4 Elina Svitolina, 6-3, 7-6 (8-6), Garbine Muguruza beat Kerber, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, and Johanna Konta ousted No. 21 Caroline Garcia, 7-6 (7-3), 4-6, 6-4.

Tuesday’s quarterfinals will have No. 10 seed Williams facing Ostapenko, Konta playing No. 2 seed Simona Halep, Muguruza against No. 7 Svetlana Kuznetsova, and Magdalena Rybarikova vs. 24th-seeded American CoCo Vandeweghe.

Halep defeated Victoria Azarenka, 7-6 (7-3), 6-2, Rybarikova beat qualifier Petra Martic, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3, Vandeweghe upset No. 5 Caroline Wozniacki, 7-6 (7-4), 6-4, and Kuznetsova beat No. 9 Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-2, 6-4.