World No. 1 Rafael Nadal has urged officials of the ATP tour to examine the slew of injuries ravaging the men’s game at the moment after he was forced to retire during the fifth set of his Australian Open quarter-final against Marin Cilic on Tuesday.
Nadal, who had pulled out of the ATP Finals after his first match last November to deal with a knee injury, delayed his start to the 2018 season – skipping an exhibition in Abu Dhabi and the Brisbane International – in efforts to be ready for the Australian Open in Melbourne.
He is just one of a host of players dealing with physical problems. Novak Djokovic missed six months of action due to an elbow injury, which is yet to heal and affected him during his fourth round loss to Chung Hyeon on Monday. Andy Murray just had hip surgery, also following a six-month absence, while Stan Wawrinka missed the same amount of time due to double-knee surgery.
Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori are others who spent time away from the game with injuries and there are countless other examples.
“Somebody who is running the tour should think little bit about what’s going on. Too many people getting injured,” said Nadal, who has been struck by injuries more than most of his fellow top players throughout his career.
“I don’t know if they have to think a little bit about the health of the players. Not for now that we are playing, but there is life after tennis. I don’t know if we keep playing in this very, very hard surfaces what’s going to happen in the future with our lives.”
The tennis season runs from January to November and while players have spent years complaining about the length of the calendar, no significant changes have been made. In the past, Murray and Nadal both have backed the idea of having less mandatory tournaments, which would allow players to be more flexible with their schedules.
Less mandatory events…
— Andy Murray (@andy_murray) January 20, 2018
Roberto Bautista Agut, a former world No. 13 now ranked 21, agrees with Nadal’s views, and believes the tour must intervene to limit the number of injuries. He believes it won’t just benefit the players, but the tour itself.
“I think ATP should do something with the schedule. They would get more quality tournaments, more quality matches, if they would start thinking more of the players,” said the Spaniard during the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi last month.
“I’m not the one who knows exactly what they can do but of course they should discuss with the players and try to find a solution and I think it’s going to be better for all of us and also for the ATP.”
Cilic doesn’t necessarily share Nadal and Bautista Agut’s opinions. He believes cutting down on tournaments would hurt the tour.
“The calendar is there for so many years. Just in this last year, obviously beginning of this one, we see a lot of top guys that are injured. In the end it’s on all of us to try to take care of our bodies, to try to pick the right schedule, to listen to our body, how it feels,” said the Croatian.
“I completely understand there are a lot of tournaments that we play, mandatory tournaments. In my own perspective, we are all picking our own schedule.
“It’s tough to say, Okay, we going to take out two months of the season, cut that many tournaments, because tennis is such a global sport. Everywhere we play people enjoy it. I think tennis is getting more and more popular, which we really want also.”
Nadal said he felt pain in his upper right leg during the fourth set against Cilic and is unsure exactly what the injury is. He said it was not the knee though, which is what kept him out of action end of last year.
The top seed could not hide his disappointment and said he felt it was a missed opportunity. He was gunning for a 17th Grand Slam trophy this fortnight.
“Tough moments. Is not the first time an opportunity that is gone for me. I am a positive person, and I can be positive, but today is an opportunity lost to be in the semi-finals of a Grand Slam and fight for an important title for me, no?” Nadal told reporters after his quarter-final on Tuesday.
“In this tournament already happened a couple of times in my life, so it’s really I don’t want to say frustration, but is really tough to accept, especially after a tough December that I had without having a chance to start in Abu Dhabi and then Brisbane.
“Yeah, I worked hard to be here. We did all the things that we believed were the right things to do to be ready…
“Yeah, I was playing a match that anything could happen: could win, could lose. I’m being honest. He was playing good, too. That’s the real thing.
“But I was fighting for it. I was two sets to one up. Yeah, just accept, recover, come back home, stay with my people, and keep going. That’s all.
“It’s a negative thing, but I don’t going to complain because happened to me more than others. But on other hand I was winning more than almost anyone. That’s the real thing. But who knows, if I didn’t have all these injuries…”
This isn’t the first time injury has bothered Nadal in Melbourne. He hurt his back during the 2014 final he lost to Wawrinka, he sustained a hamstring injury during his defeat to David Ferrer in the quarter-finals in 2011 and he retired from his last-eight clash with Murray the year before with a knee problem.
Rafael Nadal’s drive towards a second Australian Open title came to a shuddering injury-induced halt Wednesday on a day of upsets that saw unseeded Kyle Edmund and Elise Mertens make the semi-finals.
The world number one retired against Marin Cilic after an upper right leg problem began troubling him the fourth set on Rod Laver Arena, with the Spaniard wincing in pain and limping as he struggled to continue.
His 3-6, 6-3, 6-7 (5/7), 6-2, 2-0 exit set up a last-four clash for the former US Open champion against Britain’s Edmund, who stunned third seed Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Mertens, who is yet to drop a set, was equally convincing in blasting past world number four Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-0 to become the first Belgian to make the semis since Kim Clijsters in 2012.
She will play second seeded Dane Caroline Wozniacki or veteran Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro for a place in Saturday’s final.
Little separated Nadal and big-hitting Cilic until the injury struck, as they traded ferocious groundstrokes in an intense battle.
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 23, 2018
But the Spaniard, who was beaten in last year’s final by Roger Federer, called the physio at 1-4 in the fourth set and again at the changeover when two sets apiece and the writing was on the wall.
“It was an unbelievable performance from both us,” said Croat Cilic, the sixth seed. “It is really unfortunate for Rafa to finish this way.”
Nadal’s retirement follows the departure on Monday of Novak Djokovic, with his immediate playing future uncertain after an elbow injury flared. He also appeared to have a hip problem.
There were no such troubles for Edmund against Dimitrov, as he became only the fourth British man to reach the Australian Open semi-finals in the post-1968 Open Era.
“It’s an amazing feeling. I’m very happy,” said the overwhelmed 23-year-old, ranked 49.
“It was a hard match and I’m really trying to enjoy the moment. It was my first match on Rod Laver Arena and it’s very special.”
He is the only British man in the draw after Andy Murray’s injury withdrawal before the tournament, raising the prospect that it will be him, rather than the Scot, who breaks through to win in Australia.
Murray has been a five-time finalist, but lost them all.
Provided by AFP Sport
The Bulgarian world No.3 was ambushed 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 by the 49th-ranked Edmund and again misses out in his 30th Grand Slam tournament.
The 26-year-old lost to Rafael Nadal over five sets in last year’s semi-final and has yet to go beyond the last four at a Grand Slam.
“It’s hard to hide the disappointment. It’s how I feel. It hurts and so it should,” Dimitrov told his post-match media conference.
“I need to give myself a couple of days just to relax a little bit and reassess the whole Australian trip.
KING KYLE!! 👑🇬🇧@kyle8edmund becomes the first British man not named @andy_murray to reach the #AusOpen semifinals since 1977. He defeats No.3 Grigor #Dimitrov 6-4 3-6 6-3 6-4. pic.twitter.com/Xgoudn5snn
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 23, 2018
“I need to be smart the way I’m practising now, not to overdo it again, but in the same time make sure I find my rhythm again, my game itself, the elements when I play.
“That requires quite a bit of work, but I’m certain I’m going to be able to do it and hopefully produce better tennis as the year progresses.”
Dimitrov again struggled on serve, giving up seven double faults and being broken five times. Overall he had 43 double-faults in five matches at the tournament.
“Definitely that’s one of the things I’ve struggled with a lot in the past week,” he said.
“That’s one thing I know if I can turn around, make sure I’m a bit more consistent.
“I felt like some of the matches I was serving pretty much all the matches over 50 percent.
“It’s just the winning percentage (42 percent) on the second serve was pretty low, made quite a bit of double-faults. I can only blame myself on that.”
Dimitrov said despite his early exit from the year’s opening Grand Slam he had nothing to prove.
“In a way, I have nothing to prove to anyone anymore. I’m playing tennis for myself. I’ve pretty much done, in a way, what everybody thought I would do,” he said.
“To me, that’s not about it right now. It’s really about stepping up my own game, my own belief, my own way of playing.
“For sure once you get to the top, everything becomes more narrow. You have a bigger target on your back. Everybody wants to beat you. So, yeah, it gets harder.”
* Provided by AFP