WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Rafael Nadal pulled out of Wimbledon on Thursday with a torn abdominal muscle, a day before he was supposed to face Nick Kyrgios in the semifinals.
It is the first time since 1931 that a man has withdrawn from the oldest Grand Slam tournament before a semi-final or final.
“I made my decision because I think I can’t win two matches under these circumstances,” Nadal told a news conference at the All England Club. “I cannot serve. It’s not just that I can’t serve at the right speed, it’s that I can’t do the normal movement to serve.”
The 22-time Grand Slam champion sighed occasionally as he answered questions in English and then Spanish, for more than 20 minutes in all. On two occasions he described himself as “very sad”.
Nadal said trying to continue competing could make the injury worse.
The only other time in his career that Nadal gave an opponent a pass by retiring from a Grand Slam tournament before a match was at the 2016 French Open, when he withdrew before the third round due to a leg injury. the left wrist.
Kyrgios, a 27-year-old Australian ranked No. 40, advanced to his first title match at a major tournament and becomes the first unseeded men’s finalist at Wimbledon since Mark Philippoussis, who lost to Roger Federer. in 2003.
Kyrgios will face either three-time defending champion and No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic or No. 9 Cam Norrie of Great Britain for the championship on Sunday; his semifinal will be played on Friday.
Second-seeded Nadal, a 36-year-old Spaniard, is 19-0 in Grand Slam action in 2022, including trophies at the Australian Open in January and the French Open in June. That put him halfway to a Grand Slam in a calendar year for the first time in his career.
Nadal has been bothered by a stomach muscle for about a week, and the pain became almost unbearable in the first set of his 4-hour, 21-minute victory in the fifth-set tiebreak against Taylor Fritz in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. .
After that match, Nadal said he had considered stopping before it was over, and couldn’t be sure if he would feel well enough to play again on Friday.
He was wearing two strips of athletic tape on his lower stomach and took a medical break to take pain pills; His father and his sister waved from the stands for him to resign.
On Thursday’s day off, Nadal went to the All England Club for a light practice session. He was signed up during the official schedule to train at one of the competition tracks but did not show up there, opting for practice tracks that fans do not have access to.
Mostly content with forehands and backhands, Nadal attempted a few serves, the part of his game that revealed the most obvious inability to play at full force and, he said, caused the most discomfort against Fritz. Those Thursday practice serves were generally tapped, by Nadal’s standards, without the body-twisting he typically uses.
“I was thinking all day about the decision to be made,” Nadal said.
It’s not far from what happened with Nadal at Roland Garros, where he received repeated injections to numb chronic pain in his left foot and insisted he had no idea when he might reach the point of not being able to take the court.
He tried a new treatment after leaving Paris, and that worked well enough, Nadal said, to allow him to walk without a limp.
His level of play in five matches on the grass at Wimbledon was such that he thought he had a chance of winning a third title at the tournament, after those in 2008 and 2010.
The injury changed things, of course.
“I don’t want to go out, not be competitive enough to play at the level I need to achieve my goal,” he said.
Nadal said he thought he might be out of the game for about a month. The last Grand Slam tournament of the year, the US Open, starts on August 29.