Rafael Nadal withdraws from Wimbledon with injury

Rafael Nadal

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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Ukraine officials say athletes should not compete in Olympic qualifiers with Russians

Ukraine Russia Fencing

The Ukraine government decided that its athletes should not compete in 2024 Olympic qualifying events if Russians are present, according to several media reports in Ukraine.

“At a meeting of the government, a protocol decision was made on the proposal of colleague (sports minister Vadym) Guttsait that we take part in qualifying competitions only where there are no Russians,” government minister Oleh Nemchinov said Thursday, according to a Reuters translation of a Ukraine public broadcaster report. “Accordingly, participation outside these criteria may be grounds for depriving federations of their national status.”

A decision has not been published on the Ukraine government website.

Guttsait is also the president of Ukraine’s National Olympic Committee. A message was sent to the committee late Thursday seeking comment.

On Tuesday, the IOC updated its recommendations for the possible participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in international competition. Previously, the IOC recommended no Russians or Belarusians be allowed to compete.

Tuesday’s update called for strict measures should international sports federations decide to readmit Russians and Belarusians who do not actively support the war as neutral athletes in individual events.

“I want to tell our fellow athletes who are worried that due to the IOC measures and the admission of Russians or Belarusians to competitions, and accordingly Ukrainians will not be able to participate, that their careers will be broken,” Nemchinov said, according to the Reuters translation of the public broadcaster report. “But your life and that of your children will remain.”

The International Fencing Federation (FIE) decided earlier in March that it planned to readmit Russians and Belarusians starting in the second half of April, which is also when the 2024 Olympic qualifying period begins in that sport.

Most other international federations for Olympic sports are so far still barring Russians and Belarusians. Some have said they are considering the IOC’s updated recommendations as they monitor their positions.

After Nemchinov’s reported comments, the Ukraine fencing federation press secretary said late Thursday that its fencers will not compete against Russians.

“Ukrainian fencers will not only refuse to compete against Russian and Belarusian athletes but will not participate in events of any level where Russian or Belarusian athletes will be competing,” the press secretary said in an email.

Ukraine won at least one fencing medal at each of the last five Olympics.

“We are all professionals, and if I will fence, which can be or cannot, I think I will be professional,” Ukrainian fencer Olga Kharlan, a four-time Olympic medalist and a four-time individual world champion, said Wednesday regarding a possible boycott. “As a Ukrainian citizen, it’s tough to even imagine how to stand next to [Russians], to know that they’re supporting or they’re in silence and we haven’t heard any word from them or we know that they represent army that’s shelling Ukraine every day.”

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Wimbledon reverses ban on Russia, Belarus tennis players

Wimbledon Russia

Russian and Belarusian players will be able to compete at Wimbledon as neutral athletes after the All England Club on Friday reversed its ban from last year.

The players must sign declarations of neutrality and comply with “appropriate conditions,” including not expressing support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“This was an incredibly difficult decision, not taken lightly or without a great deal of consideration for those who will be impacted,” All England Club chairman Ian Hewitt said in a statement.

The players cannot receive funding from the Russian or Belarusian states, including sponsorship from companies operated or controlled by the states.

Those impacted include Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus and Russian players Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev.

Other tennis tournaments have allowed Russian and Belarusian players to compete as neutral athletes.

“We also consider alignment between the Grand Slams to be increasingly important in the current tennis environment,” the club said.

The same conditions will apply for Lawn Tennis Association tournaments used by players as grass-court warmups for the sport’s oldest Grand Slam tournament.

The women’s and men’s professional tennis tours last year imposed heavy fines on the LTA and threatened to pull its tournaments. The ATP and WTA had also responded to last year’s ban by not awarding ranking points for Wimbledon — an unprecedented move against the prestigious event.

“There was a strong and very disappointing reaction from some governing bodies in tennis to the position taken by the All England Club and the LTA last year with consequences which, if continued, would be damaging to the interests of players, fans, The Championships and British tennis,” the club said.

This year’s Wimbledon tournament will start on July 3. The women’s final is scheduled for July 15 and the men’s final on July 16.

The All England Club said the conditions were developed through talks with the British government, the LTA and “international stakeholder bodies in tennis.”

The club’s statement described “personal player declarations” but didn’t provide details. The LTA said the players and support staff “will be required to sign neutrality declarations” similar to those used in other sports.

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