Monday 23 July 2018

Nadal raises players' welfare issues

Caroline Wozniacki celebrates after beating Carla Suarez Navarro in their women’s singles quarter-final. Photo: Getty Images
Caroline Wozniacki celebrates after beating Carla Suarez Navarro in their women’s singles quarter-final. Photo: Getty Images

Simon Briggs in Melbourne

Rafael Nadal redoubled his calls for players' health to be better protected after being forced to retire from a grand-slam match for only the second time in his illustrious career, .

At the time of his withdrawal, Nadal was trailing Marin Cilic 2-0 in the deciding set of their quarter-final.

Over the previous half-hour, he had undergone treatment on what appeared to be a groin or upper thigh injury, but it failed to improve his movement discernibly.

In fact, he was limping more heavily with each passing game, and had no alternative but to shake hands.

Vague

Nadal was vague about the exact nature of the problem, saying that he could not be sure until he underwent scans. But he continued to complain that the authorities were showing insufficient regard for players' bodies.

It is a point he has made many times, most recently on the eve of this tournament.

"Somebody who is running the tour should think a little bit about what's going on," said Nadal.

"Too many people are getting injured. 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 on these very, very hard surfaces what's going to happen in the future with our lives."

Nadal had started the match in barnstorming fashion, striking no fewer than 17 clean winners in the opening set.

Had he continued at this breakneck pace, he might have made it through in double-quick time, maintaining the possibility of another grand-slam final against Roger Federer.

Instead, Nadal's intensity dropped, allowing Cilic, who was serving bombs throughout, to level at one set apiece.

And this proved to be crucial, for it was in the fourth set that something tore near the top of his right leg.

"I start to feel the muscle was a little bit tired in the third (set)," said Nadal. "But playing normal, no limitation. Then in the fourth, at one movement, one drop-shot I think, I felt something. At that moment, I thought something happened, but I didn't realise how bad.

"I am a positive person," added Nadal, whose only previous retirement at a major had come against Andy Murray in the quarter-final of this event in 2010.

"But today is an opportunity lost to be in the semi-finals of a grand slam. It's really tough to accept."

Cilic had hardly been talked about as a potential champion here, but his sheer power - which manifested in a remarkable tally of 83 clean winners - surely must give him a chance.

He served 20 aces and swung with a freedom he has rarely achieved since his charge to the 2014 US Open title.

Cilic's reward is a semi-final date with England's Kyle Edmund, who continued his remarkable run by beating third seed Grigor Dimitrov.

Making his debut on Rod Laver Arena, the 23-year-old did not allow the occasion to get to him and took advantage of an opponent not at the top of his game to win 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Meanwhile, Caroline Wozniacki is two matches away from a first grand slam title after defeating Carla Suarez Navarro 6-0 6-7 (3/7) 6-2 in their women's quarter-final.

Battled

Wozniacki won the first seven games against Suarez Navarro, unseeded at this tournament but a former top-10 player, before the Spaniard battled back.

Suarez Navarro had a chance to lead 5-2 with a double break in the second set but Wozniacki fought back to level and then missed a match point at 5-4.

It looked like it might prove very costly when Suarez Navarro claimed the tie-break, but Wozniacki was the stronger in the decider.

The Dane will now face unseeded Belgian Elise Mertens, who took full advantage of fourth seed Elina Svitolina's fitness problems to win 6-4 6-0 and race into her first slam semi-final. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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