This ill-fated Wimbledon received its most painful blow yet when Rafael Nadal withdrew from Friday’s scheduled semi-final against Nick Kyrgios, leaving fans who have paid a minimum of £200 per ticket with only one singles match to watch.
Arriving back on the All England Club grounds at around 7pm on Thursday night, Nadal told reporters that he had been forced to stand down after failing to recover from the abdominal tear he suffered in his quarter-final victory over Taylor Fritz.
“I have to pull out of the tournament,” Nadal said. “As everybody saw yesterday I have been suffering with pain in the abdominal [area]. That’s confirmed. I have a tear in the muscle. I feel very sad to say that.”
Reports in Spain claimed that Nadal had a 7mm tear in his abdominal muscle after undergoing scans.
Nadal was due to practice at 12.30pm but failed to turn up at the scheduled time. He later trained on Aorangi Park for 45 minutes, but was unable to serve in his usual fashion, and spent a long while in discussions with his team at the end of the session.
The withdrawal of the two-time Wimbledon champion means that Kyrgios will play in a grand-slam final for the first time. He will face the winner of Cameron Norrie and Novak Djokovic’s semi-final, which is to take place on Centre Court on Friday.
Nadal’s hopes of a calendar slam are also over. He had previously landed the Australian and French Open titles this season to take his career tally to 22 majors, two ahead of Djokovic.
“I make my decision because I believe I can’t win two matches under these circumstances,” Nadal said. “I can’t serve, not only not at the right speed, but it’s [that] I can’t do the normal movement to serve.
“For respect to myself 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 goal,” Nadal added, “and with a big chance of making things worse.
“I can’t risk that much and stay two or three months out of competition because that would be tough for me. If that happens, it happens, but not because I wasn’t doing things properly.”
Ranked 40th in the world, Nick Kyrgios is the lowest-ranked and first unseeded Wimbledon men’s finalist since Mark Philippoussis, who was ranked 48 in 2003. Kyrgios is also the lowest-ranked grand slam men’s finalist since Marcos Baghdatis, who was ranked 54th in the world when he reached the 2006 Australian Open final, and the first unseeded since Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the 2008 Australian Open. None of these players went on to lift the title.
A walkover into the final has never happened before at Wimbledon, although there was an unplayed final in the era of wooden rackets and long trousers. All the way back in 1931, the United States Tennis Association asked Frank Shields to rest his injured knee, handing Sidney Wood a walkover, so that he might be able to represent his nation in an upcoming Davis Cup match.
During the Open era, the only similar case to involve the men’s draw at a major came in 1992 at the Australian Open. In that instance, Richard Krajicek withdrew from his match against Jim Courier because of tendinitis in his shoulder.
An AELTC statement offered “sympathies to Rafa Nadal on his withdrawal from the Gentlemen’s Singles semi-final due to injury. We appreciate how hard he has worked to be fit to compete, and wish him well in his recovery. We now look forward .. to seeing Rafa back at Wimbledon next year”.
The club also offered full refunds to Centre Court ticket-holders, but only if they contacted them before midnight on Thursday night. This was a late decision, highlighting the lack of preparation for a development that was hardly unanticipated, given Nadal’s parlous physical state on Wednesday night.
Instead of Nadal v Kyrgios – which Kyrgios had ironically predicted would be “the most-watched match of all time – spectators will be offered the two semi-finals in the ladies’ doubles, featuring top seeds Elise Mertens and Shuai Zhang in one match, and second seeds Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova in the other.
This has been a star-crossed tournament ever since the AELTC’s announcement in late April that Russian and Belarusian players would not be admitted to Wimbledon. Despite the controversial decision – which prompted the professional tours to withdraw rankings points from the event – we have still ended up with Moscow-born Elena Rybakina in Saturday’s women’s final.
Although Rybakina has played under the Kazakh flag for the past four years, in exchange for generous financial support, she has been reluctant this week to reject her former nationality.
Just to add to the AELTC’s various headaches, Kyrgios will go into Sunday’s final under the shadow of domestic-abuse allegations. News emerged on Tuesday that he has been summoned to a Canberra Court next month to hear these allegations from his ex-girlfriend Chiara Passari.