Rafael Nadal withdrew from Wimbledon, citing an abdominal muscle tear, the night before his scheduled semifinal with Nick Kyrgios, sending Kyrgios into Sunday’s final.
Nadal, the record 22-time Grand Slam men’s singles champion, said Thursday night that he had abdominal “issues” for the last week. The pain accelerated in Wednesday’s five-set quarterfinal win over American Taylor Fritz.
Nadal, who expects to miss three or four weeks (but start hitting balls next week), withdrew because playing further could make the injury worse and because, in his current state, he did not think he could win two matches to claim a third Wimbledon title.
“I don’t want to go out there, not be competitive enough to play at the level I need to play to achieve my goal, and with big chance to make the things much worse,” the 36-year-old said.
On Wednesday, he took a medical timeout in the second set against Fritz and was clearly affected by the injury the rest of the match as shown in his serve speeds.
At one point during play, Nadal’s father was motioning from his player box for him to quit.
“A lot of moments I was thinking maybe I will not be able to finish the match,” Nadal said Wednesday. “I had these feelings [abdominal pain] for a couple of days. Without a doubt, today was the worst day. Have been an important increase of pain and limitation.”
After Wednesday’s match, Nadal said he would get medical tests on Thursday before determining whether he would play in Friday’s semifinals. On Thursday afternoon, he practiced on site.
Then on Thursday evening, a press conference was scheduled on a half-hour’s notice for 7:20 local time, leading to speculation that he was withdrawing.
It’s the third major injury for Nadal this year after a broken rib in March and, in the spring, a recurrence of chronic pain in his left foot that has troubled him for years. He won the French Open with no feeling in the foot after receiving two pain-killing injections before each of his seven matches in Paris.
After the French Open final on June 5, he had a radio frequency injection on a foot nerve in an attempt to alleviate the problem and prolong his career. It appeared to work as he returned to play at Wimbledon, seeking the third leg of the calendar Grand Slam, and said before the tournament that he felt no pain.
“I never thought about the calendar Slam,” Nadal said Thursday. “The fact that I was here shows how important is this tournament for me and how much I wanted to play here. I did all the things the best way possible to give myself a chance here.
“I am in the semifinals, so I’m playing very well the last couple of days. Especially yesterday, at the beginning of the match, playing at a very, very high level. Even that makes me feel little bit worse because I felt that playing at the level that I was playing, probably I will have a chance.”
Kyrgios, a 27-year-old Australian, was already into his first major semifinal. Now, he will face No. 1 Novak Djokovic or No. 9 seed Cameron Norrie of Great Britain in Sunday’s final.
Kyrgios, ranked 40th in the world, is the first unseeded men’s Grand Slam finalist since Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the 2008 Australian Open and the first unseeded Wimbledon men’s finalist since Australian Mark Philippoussis in 2003.
Djokovic, who has 20 major titles, can break his tie with Roger Federer for second in men’s history and move within one of Nadal. Djokovic might be excluded from the next two majors — the U.S. Open and Australian Open — due to his decision not to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
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