PARIS — For a decade,
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
"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% impossible."
His announcement, at what he called “one of the toughest press conferences in my career,” overshadowed everything else going on around the grounds on Day 6 of the French Open, from the straight-set victories by defending champion Stan Wawrinka and No. 2-seeded
"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 and his first in Paris — and 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."
He knows he’ll have his own work cut out for him against Murray, a two-time major champion who has won all five of their previous matchups. Other fourth-rounders established Friday included No. 3 Wawrinka against No. 22
Women’s fourth-round matches will be Rogers against No. 25
Kuznetsova won the tournament in 2009; Halep and Stosur have both been runner-up.
Nadal won the French Open four times in a row from 2005 to ’08, then another five straight from 2010-14. His only losses came against
Nadal, owner of 14 Grand Slam titles overall, said the wrist pain first developed during a match on clay in Madrid this month, then subsided, before growing worse this week. Nadal got a painkilling injection before his second-round victory Thursday, but by the time he awoke Friday, he couldn't move his wrist and went for an MRI exam.
"He did not practice this morning, so I figured there was a problem," tournament director Guy Forget said.
When Forget got a phone call from a member of Nadal’s entourage, he knew for certain something was wrong. Nadal’s exit means the man who was supposed to be his next opponent,
"Unfortunately, it is happening right now and it is impacting the tournament. It's impacting you and me," Forget said. "I think we're all conscious that he is one of our best ambassadors. Unfortunately, what counts now is health."
The man who was supposed to be Nadal's next opponent, Marcel Granollers of Spain, gets a walkover into the fourth round.