Rafael Nadal saw his dreams of another Wimbledon title ended by an abdominal injury as he handed Nick Kyrgios a walkover into his first grand slam singles final.
Nadal was clearly hampered in his quarter-final against Taylor Fritz on Wednesday but battled to a five-set victory.
However, after scans revealed the severity of the problem, the 22-time grand slam champion made the decision to withdraw on Thursday evening, saying: “I am very sad and it has been a tough one.”
The Spaniard revealed he has been struggling with the issue for the last week but it became significantly worse against Fritz and he was concerned about doing more damage.
“I was thinking during the whole day about the decision to make,” said Nadal. “But I think it doesn’t make sense to go (on).
“Even if I tried a lot of times during my career to keep going under very tough circumstances, I think it’s obvious that, if I keep going, the injury is going to be worse and worse.
“I made my decision because I believe that I can’t win two matches under these circumstances. I can’t serve. It’s not only that I can’t serve at the right speed, it’s that I can’t do the normal movement to serve.
“(Also) for respect to myself in some way, I don’t want to go out there, not be competitive enough to play at the level that I need to play to achieve my goal, and with a big chance to make the things much worse.
“A couple of weeks ago I saw my career very difficult because of the foot injury. Now the things are better in that case. That’s the most dangerous thing that can today stop my tennis career.
“For me the most important thing is happiness more than any title, even if everybody knows how much effort I put in to be here. 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.”
Concerns were first raised during Nadal’s fourth-round win over Botic van de Zandschulp when tape was visible on his abdomen.
He took a medical timeout during the second set of his clash with Fritz and defied gestures from his family to call it a day but admitted afterwards he had considered withdrawing several times.
After winning the Australian Open and French Open titles, Nadal had a chance to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to claim the calendar Grand Slam, but he said: “I never thought about the calendar slam.
“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. Especially yesterday, at the beginning of the match, playing at a very, very high level.
“Even that makes me feel a little bit worse because I felt that, playing at the level that I was playing, probably I will have a chance.”
The positive news for Nadal is he should have fully recovered in three to four weeks, giving him enough time to prepare for the US Open beginning on August 29.
“I hope these three, four weeks will allow me to do my normal calendar,” he said. “In one week I’m going to be able to play from the baseline. Not serving for a while, of course. In some way that’s a positive thing.”
Nadal’s decision means it is volatile Australian Kyrgios who moves through to a first grand slam singles final, where he will take on either defending champion Novak Djokovic or Britain’s Cameron Norrie.
Kyrgios responded to Nadal’s announcement by writing on Instagram: “Different players, different personalities. @rafaelnadal I hope your recovery goes well and we all hope to see you healthy soon. till next time…”.
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