Wimbledon, England – Finally, after a day of pondering and reflecting on what matters most, health beat the temptations of another title.
Thursday night, 24 hours after one of the bravest attempts of his career, 22-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal withdrew from his semi-final match against Nick Kyrgios on Friday.
“I don’t think I can win two games under these conditions,” he said. “I can’t serve.”
Nadal announced at a press conference just after 2pm in the main media conference room of the All England Club, explaining that he was withdrawing due to a tear in his abdominal muscle.
“I was thinking all day about the decision,” he said. “I think it makes no sense to go.”
He said, “I am very sad.”
Nadal, who entered the tournament halfway to a Grand Slam and with fears of a chronic foot injury, said he started feeling pain in his stomach about a week ago. The pain got worse, and it became clear that he tore muscle early in his five-set win over Taylor Fritz in the quarter-finals on Wednesday.
In that match, Nadal took medical time in the second set. From the stands, his father and other members of his family demanded that he stop playing rather than risk further injuries, but Nadal ignored their pleas and scored one of the most impressive victories of a career that saw many of them.
After the match, Nadal warned that he might not be able to play in the semi-finals and that he intended to have a scan to determine the extent of the injury.
“The decision in the end – all decisions – is the player’s decision, but at the same time I need to know different opinions and I need to check everything in the right way, right? This is something more important than winning Wimbledon, this is health,” he said. However, few believed that Nadal, who has struggled with pain for most of his career, would not at least try to play the semifinals.
The withdrawal – the first from a Wimbledon semi-final in modern tennis – was particularly disappointing as Nadal’s performance was improving with each match, something he noted on Thursday and after his victory over Fritz, even though this was his first tournament on grass in three matches. Years.
“I’m in the semi-finals, so I’ve been playing very well in the last two days, especially yesterday, at the start of the match, I’m playing at a very high level,” he said.
With Nadal withdrawing, Kyrgios secured a pass to his first singles final at a Grand Slam. Kyrgios, 27, had not previously competed in a singles semi-final at a Grand Slam during a career filled with controversy.
“Different players, different personalities,” Kyrgios wrote about Nadal in an Instagram post after the announcement. “@Rafael Nadal Hope your recovery goes well and we all hope to see you healthy soon 🗣🙏🏽 until next time.”
The withdrawal is the latest blow to a tournament that has followed a rocky path since April, when organizers announced that they would The bar of Russian and Belarusian players From competition due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Organizers took the move amid intense pressure from the British government and the royal family, who are closely associated with the tournament and did not want Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, to be photographed doing her traditional duty of presenting a trophy to a Russian or Belarusian champion.
There were no tournaments outside Britain, including the US Open, in Wimbledon’s footsteps. The decision also sparked a battle with the men’s and women’s professional tours, which was decided No rating points awarded For victories at Wimbledon, turning the sport’s most famous tournament into something of a show.
The situation became more critical on Thursday when Elena Rybakina, who was born and raised in Russia but started representing Kazakhstan four years ago after the Tennis Association offered to fund her development, qualified for the women’s final.
But on Thursday night, everything else seemed to pale in comparison to the disappointment that Nadal would not be able to take the court in his confrontation with Kyrgios, and if he were to win, it would likely be match 60 against Novak Djokovic.
Nadal said the injury had bothered him for several days, but the pain intensified in the fifth game of the match as he was leading 3-1. It got worse after a few matches as Fritz broke Nadal to move forward.
Nadal said he then changed his serving method, slowing and turning the violent twisting motion — the torque of his torso and the strength of his legs — to serve at roughly 120 mph. During long stretches of the match, Nadal struggled to serve with three figures.
However, he resisted his family’s pleas for him to resign, wanting to finish what he had started. He defended that decision on Thursday, even though he ultimately denied the tournament a semi-final match.
He described it as the right decision “because I won the match. I finished the match. I won the match. I did the things I felt in every moment.”
However, he said his willingness to risk his health changed on Thursday, when he saw and felt the extent of the rupture. He believed that winning two more matches would be impossible and that the attempt would only exacerbate the injury and miss more matches this summer.
“Very difficult circumstances,” he said, pursing his lips with that slight tilt of his head that he often does when he delivers unfortunate news.
He said he won’t be competitive for at least three or four weeks, but that he will be able to start hitting from baseline in less than a week, and then start serving as soon as he can do it undisturbed. This is important for Nadal, as his chronically injured foot often becomes a problem when he does not play for extended periods. He can start serving sometime after that, assuming he can play without pain.
He said that schedule would not conflict with his regular summer schedule, which generally includes hard-court tournaments in Canada and Cincinnati before the US Open kicks off in late August.
As of now, Djokovic will not be able to play the US Open due to his refusal to vaccinate against Covid-19. US policy currently prohibits entry into the country of unvaccinated foreigners.
In recent years, Djokovic has become obsessed with ending his career with the most Grand Slam singles titles. The year began with a draw with Nadal and Roger Federer at the age of twenty.
Nadal then won his first two Grand Slam titles of the year to advance in a race he said he doesn’t care about much, which is a bit hard to fathom given how competitive he is on the court.
“As usual,” he said, “the most important thing is happiness more than any title, even if everyone knows how much effort it takes to be here.”
He also said Thursday night that he did not take into account the withdrawal that ends his chance in the Grand Slam tournaments, a task that Djokovic also captured and came in one match withdrew last year when Nadal missed the second half of the year. due to a defect in his foot.
“I never thought about the slam calendar,” he said. “I thought about my daily happiness.”