Even he knows it. “Not looking for handouts,” he wrote on social media, after news of Nadal’s withdrawal. “If I couldn’t beat him then I don’t deserve to be in [the] semis … simple as that.”
Nadal has taken some heat in the past 24 hours for not retiring from his quarter-final altogether, as he was clearly in severe pain as he clutched his abdominals and even doubled over throughout the match.
But Nadal did not know the extent of his abdominal tear at the time and, regardless, has no responsibility to think about the player on the other side of the net – or in the next round – during a match. That fact he beat Fritz while struggling so much with an injury is testament to his insane competitive ability and also points further to the fact the American has no business contesting the semi-finals on Friday.
Though this debate feels hugely pertinent now, the circumstances are actually incredibly rare. We have gone decades without a withdrawal at the latter stages of a major. This is the first time that there has been one at Wimbledon in 91 years, when the American Frank Shields pulled out of the 1931 final with a knee injury, handing the title to Sidney Wood.
There have only been two walkovers in Grand Slam singles semi-finals in the Open Era. It is 30 years since there was the last one in the men’s singles, when Richard Krajicek pulled out of the 1992 Australian Open to hand Jim Courier a place in the final. In the women’s singles you have to go back even further, to the 1988 US Open, when Steffi Graf won by walkover after Chris Evert withdrew.