Nadal centre stage at Wimbledon as Covid forces third withdrawal

LONDON: Rafael Nadal tops the bill at Wimbledon on Thursday after Roberto Bautista Agut became the third player to withdraw from the Championships following a positive coronavirus test.

In early results on the fourth day of the tournament, women’s fourth seed Paula Badosa set up a third-round clash against two-time winner Petra Kvitova.

Second seed Nadal, hunting a rare calendar Grand Slam, takes on Lithuanian journeyman Ricardas Berankis in the second round on Centre Court with his path to the semi-finals opening up.

Spanish 17th seed Bautista Agut became the third potential dangerman in Nadal’s half of the draw to pull out with Covid, following the withdrawals of 2021 runner-up Matteo Berrettini and 2017 finalist Marin Cilic.

“Today I have notified @Wimbledon of my withdrawal. I have tested positive for Covid-19,” tweeted the 34-year-old Bautista Agut, a semi-finalist in 2019.

“Fortunately, the symptoms are not very serious, but I think it is the best decision. Thanks for your support. I hope to come back soon.”

His exit means that Colombia’s Daniel Elahi Galan receives a walkover into the last 32.

Wimbledon was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic while the 2021 edition was run at reduced capacity with players confined to a bubble, but this year it is back to business as usual at the All England Club.

Nadal has also benefited from a shock first-round exit for Canada’s sixth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, who took him to five sets at the French Open. The major threat to the Spaniard’s hopes for a third Wimbledon crown on his side of the draw is Greek fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who plays Australia’s Jordan Thompson.

Nadal, 36, is halfway to a calendar Slam after winning the Australian Open and French Open this year. The feat has not been achieved since 1969.

The 22-time Grand Slam champion struggled with crippling foot pain at Roland Garros but has received treatment aimed at reducing the pain and was moving freely in his first-round match on Tuesday.

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