Saturday, February 24, 2018
Sports

Injured wrist forces Nadal to bid adieu

PARIS — For a decade, Rafael Nadal ruled Roland Garros the way no other man has dominated any Grand Slam site.

On Friday, his powerful left wrist wrapped in a blue brace, Nadal delivered the surprising news he was withdrawing before his third-round match at the French Open because of an injury that would prevent him from delivering the whiplike, spin-heavy forehand that carried him to a record nine titles and a 72-2 record on the tournament's red clay.

"To win the tournament, I need five more matches," Nadal said, his face expressionless, his arms crossed in front of him, "and the doctor says that's 100 percent impossible."

"Now is a tough moment," the Spaniard added, "but (it) is not the end."

His announcement, at what he called "one of the toughest news conferences in my career," overshadowed everything else going on at the French on Day 6, from the straight-set victories by defending champion Stan Wawrinka and No. 2 seed Andy Murray, to the out-of-nowhere 6-0, 6-7 (3-7), 6-0 upset of two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova by 108th-ranked Shelby Rogers, a 23-year-old American.

No. 15 John Isner, the last U.S. man in the field, found out about Nadal's abrupt departure about 15 minutes after winning a five-setter to set up a showdown with Murray for a berth in the quarters.

"It was a shock," Isner said. "I had no idea."

It robbed the event of more star power, coming a week after 17-time major champion Roger Federer pulled out because of lingering back problems.

It cleared one potential obstacle from the path of No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who is attempting to win a fourth consecutive major title (his first in Paris) and achieve the career Grand Slam; he could have faced Nadal in the semifinals.

And it raised more questions about how long Nadal, who turns 30 in a week, can continue to ply his intensely physical brand of tennis and remain among the sport's best. In the past, he has dealt with problems to both knees and to his right wrist; this is the first time his left wrist has been an issue.

"I mean, it's a bummer for the tournament," Isner said. "I think a lot of people had him playing Novak in the semis on that side of the draw. It's a shame."

Other fourth-rounders established Friday included No. 3 Wawrinka against No. 22 Viktor Troicki, No. 5 Kei Nishikori against No. 9 Richard Gasquet, and No. 8 Milos Raonic against unseeded Albert Ramos-Vinolas.

Women's fourth-round matches will be Rogers against No. 25 Irina-Camelia Begu, No. 2 Agnieszka Radwanska against unseeded Tsvetana Pironkova, No. 4 Garbine Muguruza against No. 13 Svetlana Kuznetsova, and No. 6 Simona Halep against No. 21 Sam Stosur.

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