MELBOURNE, Australia—An injured and visibly struggling Rafael Nadal retired while trailing in the fifth set of his Australian Open quarter-final match against Marin Cilic.
The top-ranked Nadal fended off five break points in the last game before Cilic broke his serve, then the 16-time major winner went to shake hands with the umpire and his opponent, and angrily hurled his headband into his equipment bag.
The No. 6-seeded Cilic advanced to his first semi-final 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 champ, next will play 49th-ranked Kyle Edmund, who beat third-ranked Grigor Dimitrov 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to reach a Grand Slam semi-final for the first time.
Nadal limped into a news conference about a half-hour later, still wincing when he stepped up onto a platform.
He said he felt muscle pain in his upper right leg in the third set but played through it.
In the fourth set, chasing a drop shot, he felt the pain get worse “but didn't realize how bad.”
“I'm a positive person, but today is an opportunity lost to be in a semi-final for a Grand Slam and fight for an important title for me,” Nadal said.
“It's really tough to accept.”
Nadal said he would have medical scans tomorrow to determine the exact location and extent of the injury, which he only could describe as being high on his right leg but not in the hip.
“Unbelievable performance from both of us and really unfortunate for Rafa,” Cilic said.
"He's such an unbelievable competitor.
“He always gives his best. . . 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 also was an Australian Open quarter-final, back in 2010 against Andy Murray.
He needed a medical time-out after going down 4-1 in the fourth set for treatment on his leg.
Nadal returned but clearly was bothered by the injury, limping and taking as much time as possible as he tried to stretch between points.
He called the trainer again after losing the fourth set, and lasted only two further games.
Nadal's absence also means there's only one of last year's singles finalists remaining in the tournament.
Roger Federer, who beat Nadal in five sets last year, is playing Tomas Berdych in a quarter-final 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.
Meantime, there will be a British man in the Australian Open semi-finals for the seventh time in nine years. But it won't be five-time finalist Murray, who skipped the season-opening tournament to have surgery on his hip.
Edmund had never played in a major quarter-final, 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.
Edmund, who had a first-round upset over U.S. Open finalist Kevin Anderson, now is the centre of attention for the tennis-loving British public.
“I know what it feels like to be Andy Murray the last eight years," he remarked. ”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—becoming the first Belgian since Kim Clijsters in 2012 to reach the semi-finals here.
She'll play either second-seeded Caroline Wozniacki or Carla Suarez Navarro.