Rafael Nadal’s hopes of a calendar grand slam have been shattered after he was forced to withdraw from his Wimbledon semi-final against Nick Kyrgios due to an abdominal strain he sustained during his quarter-final win against Taylor Fritz.
Nadal had won the first two grand slam tournaments of the year for the first time in his career and he had arrived in the semi-final with a 19-match winning streak at major events. However, he was forced to admit defeat in his battle to be fit after suffering an abdominal tear early on in his last-eight encounter with Fritz.
According to reports from the Spanish newspaper Marca, the tear was 7mm. “I can’t serve. Is not only that I can’t serve at the right speed, it’s that I can’t do the normal movement to serve,” said Nadal.
After undergoing scans on Thursday morning, Nadal returned in the afternoon for a delayed training session at Aorangi Park. Nadal worked on his groundstrokes but he only tentatively practised his serve and he attempted to adjust his motion to suit the injury. Afterwards, he and his team had a sombre discussion on the court.
It was not until hours later, long after Friday’s order of play had been released, that Nadal conceded that he would not be able to play.
“The communication is too late because even like that I was thinking during the whole day about the decision to make,” he said. “But I think it doesn’t make sense to go. Even if I tried a lot of times during my career to keep going under very tough circumstances, in that one I think it’s obvious that if I keep going, the injury going to be worse and worse.”
Despite the enormous success that Nadal has enjoyed, now the men’s grand slam record holder with 22nd major titles, injuries have plagued him every step of the way. Nadal has now withdrawn from 13 slam events over the course of his career. This year alone, despite winning his first 20 matches of his season, Nadal’s clay season was disturbed by a stress fracture in one of his ribs and then he struggled with his degenerative foot injury around the French Open, leading to doubts about his presence at Wimbledon.
After all of the work to recover in time for Wimbledon and the positive progress he made with his foot, a new injury forced him out.
“I did all the things the best way possible to give myself a chance here. I am in the semi-finals, so I’m playing very well the last couple of days,” he said. “Especially yesterday, at the beginning of the match, playing at a very, very high level. Even that makes me feel little bit worst because I felt that playing at the level that I was playing, probably I will have a chance.”
Despite the immediate pain of his withdrawal, Nadal was hopeful about the future. He said that the injury will last three to four weeks but that he should be able to return to the courts and resume his training, without serving, within the next week. He does not believe that his planned schedule will be disrupted as the tour moves to the North American hard court season.
“As I always said, for me the most important thing is happiness more than any title, even if everybody knows how much effort I put to be here,” he said. “But I can’t risk that match and stay two, three months outside of the competition because that’s going to be a tough thing for me.”
After years of attention and discussion surrounding him, Kyrgios has reached a grand slam final for the first time in his career, where he will face either Novak Djokovic or Cameron Norrie. Kyrgios is the first player in the open era to reach a Wimbledon final with a walkover and the first Australian man to play for a major title since Lleyton Hewitt at the 2005 Australian Open.