Rafael Nadal on Thursday withdrew from Wimbledon 2022 ahead of his semifinal clash with Nick Kyrgios due to an abdominal injury.
The record 22-time men’s singles champion had defeated American Taylor Fritz in a gruelling five-set quarterfinal on Wednesday but was hampered by the injury for nearly the entirety of the match.
Nadal, who won the Australian and French Opens earlier in the year to pull ahead of his great rivals Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic on the all-time leaderboard, had said after his quarterfinal win against Fritz that he would assess his injury before deciding to compete in the semifinal.
Earlier on Thursday, it was reported that the 36-year-old had suffered a seven-millimetre abdominal tear.
Nadal’s withdrawal gave Kyrgios a walkover in the semifinal, with the Australian getting a men’s singles final berth at a Grand Slam for the first time in his career.
“Unfortunately as you can imagine I am here because I have to pull out from the tournament,” said the two-time Wimbledon champion.
“As everyone saw yesterday I have been suffering with a pain in the abdominal and something was not OK there. That is confirmed, I have a tear in the muscle.”
The Spaniard said he had been weighing up what decision to make all day.
But he said: “It doesn’t make sense to go (on), even if I try through my career to keep going. It is very tough circumstances but it is obvious if I keep going the injury will be worse and worse.”
The second seed was in pain during his match against Fritz, which he won 3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 7/6 (10/4) in four hours and 21 minutes.
Nadal was given pain relief during the contest and had a medical time-out in the second set, admitting his father and sister had been gesticulating for him to quit.
He practised at Wimbledon on Thursday afternoon but, in his 7.20 pm (1820 GMT) press conference, he admitted he was unable to continue.
His decision to pull out ends his hopes of winning all four majors in the same year after his victories in the Australian Open and French Open this year.
The last man to achieve the calendar Grand Slam was Rod Laver, in 1969.
Nadal, who said his injury prevented him from being able to serve properly, added: “I never thought about the calendar Slam, I thought about my diary and my happiness.
“I make the decision because I don’t believe I can win two matches under the circumstances. It is not only I can’t serve at the right speed, it is I can’t do the normal movement to serve.
“After that to imagine myself winning two matches, and for respect for myself in some way, I don’t want to go out there and not be competitive enough to play at the level I need to play to achieve my goals.”
Nadal was bidding to win his 23rd Grand Slam title and equal Serena Williams in second place on the all-time list for most Grand Slam singles titles. Margaret Court is the leader on 24 titles.
Here’s the full transcript of Rafael Nadal’s official Wimbledon press conference on Thursday:
THE MODERATOR: Rafa, you’ve got something to share with us.
RAFAEL NADAL: Good evening, everyone. Unfortunately, as you can imagine if I am here, I have to pull out from the tournament, no? As everybody saw yesterday, I have been suffering with the pain in abdominal. I know something was not okay there, as yesterday I said.
Yeah, that’s confirmed. I have a tear in the muscle in the abdominal. The communication is too late because even like that I was thinking during the whole day about the decision to make.
But I think it’s, yeah, I think it’s don’t make sense to go. Even if I tried 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 worst and worst.
That’s the thing that I can say now. Feel very sad to say that.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Have you made the decision primarily because you don’t think you can be competitive in a semifinal against Nick Kyrgios or because you’re worried that by playing, you’ll make the injury that much worse?
RAFAEL NADAL: I made my decision because I believe that I can’t win two matches under these circumstances. 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.
I have to say that, imagine myself winning two matches, and 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, no?
Being honest, a couple of weeks ago I saw my career very difficult because of the foot injury. Now that the things are better in that case. That’s the most dangerous things that can today stop my tennis career, thinking that the things are going better in that way without a doubt.
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. 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.
If that happens, happens, but not because I was not doing the things the proper way. That’s my decision and I have to live with that. I can’t say another thing. I am very sad and have been a very tough one.
Q. It’s been a strange year with Australian Open, the French Open, where you had physical limitations. How frustrating is it for you to see your bid for the calendar slam end in this way?
RAFAEL NADAL: No, I never thought about the calendar slam. I thought about my daily happiness and my daily work. Just play for the things that I really feel like, no?
Honestly, Australia was not an issue. I didn’t have many problems during the tournament. But I came back from long period time of injury.
Roland Garros have been, yeah, very demanding, mentally especially and physically one. But after that, things were going better. As I said, after how tough was Roland Garros, just 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 worst because I felt that playing at the level that I was playing, probably I will have a chance.
Q. You just told us that if you keep on playing, it gets worse. You had the problems in the second set against Taylor Fritz already. Your sister and father said maybe you should quit. You kept on playing. Was it the right decision?
RAFAEL NADAL: Yeah, was the right decision because I finished the match. I won the match. I did the things that I felt in every single moment.
I am not the kind of player and the kind of person that when you make decisions, I going to look back and say, I should not be done that, or I should do another thing.
Of course, you learn from mistakes. I did during all my tennis career. I tried to not repeat mistakes. In the other hand, I didn’t want to pull out, to go out the court in the middle of a quarterfinals match. Even if, as I say yesterday, the chance of retirement stays in my mind for a long time after the first five, six games, I find a way to finish the match. Something that I am proud of. Then you confirm that you have an injury, then you make the decision thinking about your health and your future.
Q. Can you say when the injury happened? Do you know yet how long it will take you to recover?
RAFAEL NADAL: Well, I had some issues in abdominals since a week, but the things were more or less we were able to control it. But yesterday was the worst day, no? Honestly during the week I did tests to see how the things evolves. It’s obvious that yesterday after the match this very small thing that I had years ago – sorry, days ago, increased to a bigger thing. That’s the thing.
It going to be around between three, four weeks, normal thing for these kind of injuries. So I hope that this will not make me – I hope these three, four weeks will allow me to do my normal calendar. That’s the calendar that I have on mind.
I can’t keep playing, not now, but in one week I going to be able to play from the baseline. Not serving for a while, of course. Playing from the baseline not going to be a big deal.
In some way that’s a positive thing, that I going to keep being able to practice from the baseline. That helps to try to make the calendar that I want to do.
Q. Was there one point yesterday where it was really bad, where you aggravated it? Was it just building up and the pain got bad? Was there a certain point that you reached or served hard or anything?
RAFAEL NADAL: Is difficult to say. I this feeling on abdominal the last week, but for some moments were worse, some moments little bit better.
But yesterday in the game that I was serving 3-1 to 3-2, I think was the moment that I start to feel the things were going worst. Then serving, if I was not wrong, 4-3 the thing starts to be much worst. I found a way more or less to even slowing down the speed and changing the movement on the serve. I was able to find a way to probably don’t increase the injury that much, and be able to finish the match.
But, yeah, then I am always kind of person that think step by step. Yesterday, as I said, I wanted to finish the match. I finished with a victory, but then I need to do all the things that I had to do.
The test says that I have what I have. There is always a choice, but in this particular case, is not like the foot that I know that the injury is there and the injury will not get worse in this particular case. It’s obvious that if I keep going, the injury going to be increasing, no?