Injured Nadal out of Australian Open; Cilic into semifinals
An injured and visibly struggling Rafael Nadal retired while trailing in the fifth set of his Australian Open quarterfinal match against Marin Cilic.
Top-ranked Nadal saved five break points in the last game before Cilic broke his serve, then Nadal went to shake hands with the umpire and his opponent, and angrily hurled his headband into his equipment bag.
No. 6-seeded Cilic advanced to his first semifinal in Australia since 2010 with a score of 3-6, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-2, 2-0, retired.
Cilic, the 2014 U.S. Open champion, will next play No. 49-ranked Kyle Edmund, who earlier beat No. 3-ranked Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach a Grand Slam semifinal for the first time.
“Really unfortunate for Rafa. He is an unbelievable competitor,” Cilic said. “Always gives his best and it’s very unfortunate for him to finish this way.”
It was only the second time Nadal had retired during a Grand Slam match – the last time was also an Australian Open quarterfinal, in 2010 against Andy Murray.
On Tuesday night, he needed a medical timeout after going down 4-1 in the fourth set, getting treatment on his upper right leg and hip.
Nadal returned but was clearly bothered by the injury, limping and trying to stretch between points.
He called the trainer again after the fourth set, and lasted only two more games before finishing the 3-hour, 47-minute match.
Cilic had only previously beaten Nadal once in their six previous matches – in their first match at Beijing in 2009.
Nadal had a delayed start to the season because of an injured right knee, but appeared to be in good form through the first four rounds. Now the 16-time major winner hasn’t won back-to-back Australian Open quarterfinals since 2008 and ’09, the year he won his only title at Melbourne Park.
His absence also means there’s only one of last year’s finalists remaining in the tournament. Roger Federer, who beat Nadal in five sets last year, is playing Tomas Berdych in a quarterfinal on Wednesday.
Serena Williams didn’t defend her title, deciding she hadn’t had enough time to prepare following the birth of her first child last September. Her older sister, Venus Williams, was beaten in the first round.
On top of that, six-time champion Novak Djokovic was upset in the fourth round on Monday by Hyeon Chung.
There’ll be a British man in the Australian Open semifinals for the seventh time in nine years, but it won’t be Murray – who skipped the season-opening tournament to have surgery on his hip.
Edmund had never played in a major quarterfinal, had never won five consecutive matches at tour level, had lost both of his previous matches against Dimitrov and had never beaten a top five player.
He checked all those boxes on Rod Laver Arena.
“I am loving it right now, just the way I’m playing,” Edmund said. “My first Grand Slam semifinal. First time I played on one of the biggest courts in the world. To beat a quality of player like Grigor. They’re great feelings. So, yeah, I just try to enjoy it as much as possible.”
After breaking Dimitrov’s serve in the ninth game of the fourth set, Edmund set up match point with an ace. Then he had to wait before a video challenge confirmed that Dimitrov’s last shot – a floating backhand – was out.
“I just held my nerve in that last game and prayed that last ball would be out,” Edmund said. It was out. And so was Dimitrov, who lost a five-set semifinal here last year to Nadal and had only just beaten Edmund two weeks ago at the Brisbane International.
“There’s no point for me to say what I did wrong – it’s all about him right now,” Dimitrov said, referring to Edmund. “Everything went his way today. It’s hard to hide a disappointment. It hurts, and so it should.”
The 23-year-old Edmund, who had a first-round upset over U.S. Open finalist Kevin Anderson, is now the center of attention for the tennis-loving British public.
“I know what it feels like to be Andy Murray the last eight years,” said the No. 49-ranked Edmund. “It’s probably the first time I’ve done well on my own, so there’s more attention there. Of course you take it in stride.”
Elise Mertens is facing a similar experience.
Mertens upset fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-0 to extend her winning streak to 10 matches, and became the first Belgian since Kim Clijsters in 2012 to reach the semifinals here.
Mertens, who trains at Clijsters’ academy, said: “Kim, thanks for watching. “I’m trying to be in your footsteps this week.
In the semis, she’ll play either second-seeded Caroline Wozniacki or Carla Suarez Navarro.