Rafael Nadal withdrew from Wimbledon on Thursday due to a torn abdominal muscle, a day before he was supposed to play Nick Kyrgios in the semi-finals.
This is the first time since 1931 that a man from the oldest Grand Slam tournament has dropped out before a semi-final or final.
“I made my decision because I believe I can not win two games under these circumstances,” Nadal told a news conference at the All England Club. “I can not serve. It’s not only that I can not serve at the right speed, it is that I can not do the normal movement to serve.”
The 22-time major champion occasionally sighed as he answered questions in English, then Spanish, for more than 20 minutes in total. He twice 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 a walkover to an opponent by pulling out of a Grand Slam tournament before a game came at the 2016 French Open, when he withdrew before the third round due to an injured left wrist.
The 40th seeded Kyrgios, a 27-year-old from Australia, has advanced to his first title match at a major tournament and becomes the first unseeded male finalist at Wimbledon since Mark Philippoussis, who lost to Roger Federer in 2003.
“I hope your recovery goes well and we all hope to see you healthy soon,” Kyrgios wrote in an Instagram post addressed to Nadal.
Kyrgios will face either the three-time defending champion and the no. 1-selected Novak Djokovic or the no. 9 Cam Norrie from Britain meets for the championship; their semifinal is played on Friday.
Second-seeded Nadal, a 36-year-old from Spain, is 19-0 in Grand Slam action in 2022, including trophies at the Australian Open in January and the French Open in June. This brought him halfway to a calendar year Grand Slam for the first time in his career.
Nadal has been plagued by a stomach muscle for about a week now, and the pain became almost unbearable on Wednesday in the first set of his 4-hour, 21-minute victory via the fifth-set breakaway against Taylor Fritz in the quarterfinals.
After that game, Nadal said he was considering quitting before it was over – and could not be sure if he would feel good enough to play again on Friday.
His level of play through five matches on Wimbledon’s turf was such that he thought he had a chance to win a third title at the tournament, after those in 2008 and 2010.
The injury, of course, changed things.
“I do not want to go there, not be competitive enough to play at the level I have to play to achieve my goal,” he said.
Nadal said he thinks he might be on the sidelines for about a month or so. The year’s last Grand Slam tournament, the US Open, begins on August 29.