When Rafael Nadal announced the press conference for Thursday afternoon, his fans feared the worst. The Spaniard gave his best to prepare for the Wimbledon semi-final clash against Nick Kyrgios, but he had to withdraw due to an abdominal injury.
Rafa has a seven-millimeter tear in his abdomen and felt it would be pointless to step on the court on Friday and embrace the best-of-five encounter. Nadal did not play at his best since the start of the tournament and could not work on his serve as he usually would.
Rafa lost a set against lower-ranked opponents in the opening rounds and played better against Lorenzo Sonego and Botic Van De Zandschulp. Nadal faced Taylor Fritz in the quarter-final and earned a hard-fought 3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 triumph in four hours and 20 minutes for a place in the semis.
Rafa barely continued after the third set, deciding to carry on and winning the following two sets after an epic battle to earn the 19th consecutive victory at Majors in 2022. Taylor came from 3-1 down in the opening set and rattled off five straight games for 6-3.
Rafa built the advantage in the second set before the youngster moved back to 3-3. Both players served well in the following games, and Fritz served to stay in the set at 5-6. Nadal grabbed a late break to wrap up the set and gain a boost.
Taylor took charge in the third set and grabbed a couple of breaks in games three and nine for 6-3. Nadal spoke with the doctor and opted to fight until the end and give himself a chance. The rivals traded three breaks at the start of the set, and Rafa moved 4-2 ahead after a comfortable hold.
Fritz broke back in game eight and locked the result at 4-4 for more drama.
Rafael Nadal will not challenge Nick Kyrgios in the Wimbledon semi-final.
The Spaniard forced the rival's mistake in the 11th game to open a 6-5 gap and held at love with a forehand winner in the next one to force a decider.
Both players served well at the start of the fifth set before Rafa converted the fourth break chance with a drop shot winner for 4-3. Taylor broke back in the next one and moved 5-4 up with a backhand crosscourt winner. Rafa served to stay in the match and landed a perfect volley winner for 5-5.
The encounter went into a deciding tie break, and Nadal gained a 7-3 lead after a volley winner. A forehand down the line winner at 8-3 offered Nadal six match points, and he seized the second with a forehand winner to emerge at the top.
Nick Kyrgios will have a day off on Friday and face Cameron Norrie or Novak Djokovic in Sunday's final. "Unfortunately, I'm here to tell you that I'm withdrawing from the tournament. I have suffered a rupture in the abdominal.
Something was not right, as I said yesterday, and the checks have confirmed that there is a break. I have been thinking all day about what decision to make, and I think it makes no sense to continue forcing because of my pain.
Obviously, if I keep going, the injury could get worse. It's unfortunate to have to tell you this," Rafael Nadal said.