Injury forced the world number one Rafael Nadal to pull out of an enthralling quarter-final match at the Australian Open against Marin Cilic of Croatia.
The 31-year-old Spaniard struggled with a muscle strain in his upper right thigh from late in the fourth set before abandoning the match with Cilic leading 3-6 6-3 6-7 6-2 2-0, leaving a packed Rod Laver Arena disappointed.
It was only the second time Nadal has retired in over 250 grand slam matches – the last time also in Melbourne during the 2010 quarter-finals against Andy Murray.
“I am a positive person… but today is an opportunity lost to be in a semi-finals of a grand slam,” Nadal said after the match.
The 16-times grand slam champion said he felt the strain in the third set but was not affected until the fourth when he was forced to scramble for a drop-shot.
Nadal was in trouble and a trainer worked on his thigh during a medical time-out. He returned to court but winced in pain after scrambling to retrieve a lob, and threw in the towel after being broken in his first service game of the final set.
At his news conference, Nadal complained that too many players were getting injuries, calling on tournament authorities “to think a little bit about the health of the players”.
The disappointing end overshadowed a magnificent performance from sixth seed Cilic, who reached his second Australian Open semi-final eight years after losing to Murray in 2010.
The 2014 US Open champion hit 83 winners to set up a clash with 49th-ranked Briton Kyle Edmund, who overcame third seed Grigor Dimitrov in a major upset earlier on Tuesday.
Cilic will be the favourite to reach the final after battling back twice against Nadal to overcome a 1-2 deficit.