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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Friday July 8, 2022

Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal's withdrawal at Wimbledon left the tournament with only one semifinal, and some think it's not okay.

Photo Source: Rob Newell, Camera Sport

Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal from Wimbledon – and the fact that there will only be one men’s singles semi-final at Wimbledon – on Friday, has opened up a debate about employing a lucky loser system in the main draw that allows a vanquished player to take the place of someone who has retired.

Tennis Express

Sounds ludicrous right? Imagine a player like Taylor Fritz losing in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon, then returning to win the title! For the record, Fritz thinks it is ludicrous as well.

“Nah not looking for handouts, if I couldn’t beat him then I don’t deserve to be in semis. simple as that,” he posted as a reply on social media on Thursday.

Naturally Nadal’s withdrawal is a tough blow for the tournament, which had, as of Thursday, offered refunds to Centre Court ticket holders for Friday, but the alternative is just weird.

A classic over reaction to the moment, a bit of recency bias.

Mid-tournament withdrawals happen, it's a fact of an individual sport, and while they may seem like travesty at the time, when we pull back the lens we see that it was just the natural ebb and flow of a singles draw at a tournament, like a player that plays with an injury but gets blased in straight sets.

If you're scoring at home: There have been 2 walkovers in Grand Slam singles semifinals in the Open Era – in the women’s singles at the 1988 US Open, when Steffi Graf won by walkover after Chris Evert withdrew and in the men’s singles at the 1992 Australian Open, when Jim Courier won by walkover after Richard Krajicek withdrew.

The passage of time will reveal that what happened with Nadal's withdrawal at Wimbledon was a mere blip. We won't even remember it on Sunday, when two men's finalists take to Centre Court to decide a champion. It's just another storyline, something that makes the tournament what it is, and to seek to genetically modify the draw would just be wrong.

Yet, many seem to support that notion that the Grand Slams – and tours – should experiment with some sort of system that ensures that the show goes on, no matter who retires, and at what stage of the tournament.

Nadal should have retired against Fritz? Pleeeease!

Many have also complained that Nadal should have simply retired from his quarterfinal match against Fritz if he suspected that he might not be able to complete the tournament.

To that we say this: how can a player in the heat of battle, trying to win a major quarterfinal, make a decision about his future without the proper medical information? Talk about ludicrous. Given that Nadal could have been playing in his last Wimbledon, do we really want the legendary Spaniard retiring a match that he could have won, in the second set? And when he did, would there be a lucky loser ready in the wings to take the court at 4-3 in the second set?

No. Nadal needed time to take in the full scope of his injury, see how his body reacted the following day, and make a decision that takes into account all the factors. There’s no way that any athlete – 22-time major champion or not – can be asked to retire a match for the sake of the tournament due to the possibility that he may not be able to continue in the ensuing days, if he wins.

What we want from our athletes is to see them fight for victory, to work through adversity and to show us what it means to them. This is what Nadal did. It was a memorable, moving triumph for the Spaniard.

There’s no one to blame for how it all turned out. Tennis is an individual sport, and these things happen – rarely, might I add.

So let’s leave it alone and appreciate what we had. A truly riveting victory by Nadal, and an unfortunate aftermath. Nothing more, nothing less.


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