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Sport Tennis Wimbledon

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Muller pinpoints injury layoff as key to success

Gilles Muller beat two time champion Rafael Nadal to progress to the last eight at Wimbledon for the first time in his career. Reuters/Matthew Childs

Rafael Nadal is the only member of the 'Big Four' of Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer missing from Wednesday's men's quarter-final lineup at Wimbledon. Gilles Muller, the 16th seed from Luxembourg, is the reason for the fourth seed's absence.

He beat the 31-year-old Spaniard after a five set battle lasting nearly five hours. Muller won the decisive fifth set 15-13 to advance to his first quarter-final at Wimbledon in his 10th appearance in south-west London.

The 34-year-old, who has not reached the last eight at a major since the 2008 US Open, attributed his success to doctors' orders to stay way from the courts.

"I've been able to play full seasons now for the last three or four years," said Muller. "The last injury I had was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. Because I had problems with my elbow, I wasn't able to touch a racquet.

"I was able to work out physically. I got myself into the best shape I ever was. Since 2014 when I came back, I've been able to play full seasons without any breaks during the season. I have a lot of confidence in my body now, which I didn't have before."

That fitness - both mental and physical - was put to the test during the duel with Nadal in which Muller hit 30 aces and 95 winners.

Muller has had a fruitful summer. He won the grass court tournament at 's-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands and followed that with a run to the semi-finals at Queen's where he lost to Marin Cilic who will be his quarter-final opponent on Court 1 at the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

Cilic, who ultimately lost the Queen's final to Feliciano Lopez, will be the favourite going into the clash. The seventh seed is in the last eight at Wimbledon for the fourth successive year and has experience of the latter stages of a Grand Slam event having won the US Open in 2014.

But Muller, ranked 26th in the world, will have the scent of glory. His victory over Nadal ended a 22 match losing streak against players in the top five.

He or Cilic will meet either top seed and defending champion Andy Murray or the 24th seed Sam Querrey on Friday for a place in Sunday's final.