By Rebecca Speare-Cole, PA
Tennis fans at Wimbledon say they are “devastated” for Rafael Nadal after he was forced to pull out of the grand slam tournament due to an abdominal injury.
The 22-time grand-slam champion battled through the issue to beat Taylor Fritz in five sets on Wednesday to progress into the semi-finals at SW19, but scans a day later revealed the severity of the injury.
Nadal was set to play Nick Kyrgios in Friday’s semi-final, but his Australian opponent will now receive a walkover into a maiden major final.
He announced in a press conference on Thursday evening that he would be withdrawing, ending his bid for winning all four grand slams in a year.
His would-be opponent Kyrgios paid tribute to Nadal on Instagram, sharing a picture of the two shaking hands at the end of a past match.
He wrote: “different players, different personalities. @rafaelnadal I hope your recovery goes well and we all hope to see you healthy soon 🗣🙏🏽 till next time….”
Fans responded with sadness to Nadal’s withdrawal, but also said they felt sorry for Taylor Fritz who narrowly lost to him in the quarter-final.
Others said they felt it was “unfair” that Kyrgios would go straight to the final on Sunday while Cameron Norrie and Djokovic play a semi-final match on Friday.
Sinead Goggin, 40, an account manager from Ireland, told the PA news agency that she was “devastated” by the news.
She said: “It’s just pure devastation. I’m devastated for him.
“I’m devastated for all the fans and him,” she added, saying she was sad he would not be able to try and win all four grand slams this year.
“But I would rather see him pull out than injure himself worse and hopefully get the rest of the season, but I’m devastated for him and everyone going to Wimbledon,” she added.
Couple Edmund Johnson, 29, a property developer, and Naomi Jackson, 29, who works in a start-up, and are both from Wimbledon and said they watched Kyrgios and Nadal play from the Centre Court stands in 2019.
“We watched them here – it was one of the most amazing matches we’ve seen so quite gutting not to be able to see that again,” Mr Johnson said.
“I think it would have been a really incredible match-up.”
Mr Johnson said he also thinks Kyrgios going into the final “gives him and advantage”.
He added: “I also think if I was Taylor Fritz I’d be quite sad because you’ve battled away for five sets to try and make the semi-final and your opponent’s then pulled out before the next match.
“So I’d be a bit annoyed if I was Taylor Fritz.”
But he said: “I think Nadal is such a competitor that he would do everything he could not to pull out before the match.”
“For Nadal to pull out it must be quite serious – to be fair I don’t think I could play tennis with a ripped abdomen.”
Issy Young, 29, who works in finance, and her friend Zara Vaughan, 28, a civil servant, both from South London, said: “Oh my god” in unison when they heard he had pulled out.
Ms Young said: “He did look in the last match that his dad was telling him to stop and he was clutching his stomach so I wonder if he did more damage.
“I just think as well he’s just a true competitor – to have pulled through such a difficult match then to have to pull out – it must have been a difficult decision.”
Ms Vaughan said: “That’s really sad, bless him.”
On Kyrgios going to the final, she said: “I think he’s had some horrible allegations against him and I don’t want to watch him play personally.”
Meanwhile, Oliver Sharon, 30, a social researcher from Leicester, said: “I’m disappointed first of all, because I was looking forward to watching him playing against Kyrgios, especially because it’s such a big rivalry.
“I’m gutted for him. He’s coming to his latter years isn’t he so I really hope it isn’t his last one. I still think he’s got a lot to give.”
On Kyrgios, he said: “It is what it is, isn’t it. I don’t know if it’s fair.”
“It will be very interesting to see him in the final, it doesn’t get bigger than that,” he added.
Asked about him pulling out, Diane Skinner, 66, a retiree from Wimbledon, said: “I didn’t know he had. I knew the prime minister had.”
“It’s a real shame isn’t it,” she said.
Her husband Mike Skinner, 66, said: “I was watching the match the other night, and I was hoping if he was injured he would stop playing because it seemed unfair.
“If he stopped then, then Taylor would have gone through.”
“Nadal had a chance at beating Kyrgios, but he was injured wasn’t he,” Mr Skinner added.
Diane added that she thinks it is “unfair” for Kyrgios to go straight through, but said: “I don’t know what you can do though because those are the rules.”
“I just think that is a shame because Kyrgios does each serve in 11 seconds and Nadal takes a full 30 seconds so it would have been really interesting.”