Rafael Nadal said he “feels good” even though Wimbledon sparring partner and 2021 runner-up Matteo Berrettini pulled out of the tournament with Covid on Tuesday.
Italy’s Berrettini, widely seen as one of defending champion Novak Djokovic’s biggest threats and a potential semi-final opponent for Nadal, said he was “heartbroken” to step down.
He joined 2017 runner-up Marin Cilic, who also tested positive ahead of his first-round match, in opting out.
French player Alize Cornet added to questions about tennis health protocols by saying there had been a “Covid outbreak” during the recent Roland Garros but “nobody talked about it”.
Nadal trained with Berrettini at Wimbledon last week but the Spanish star shrugged off any concerns over his health.
“It’s hard to be close contact when you’re outside, when you’re training,” Nadal said.
“At the moment I feel good, no problem at all. The main thing is that I feel really sorry for him because he was playing fantastically, winning two tournaments before the tournament started.”
The All England Club said in a statement that protocols remained in place to minimize the risk of infection.
“We are following UK guidelines regarding the assessment and isolation of any potential infectious disease,” the statement said.
“Our player medical team also continues to wear face masks for any consultations.”
– “Epidemic” claim –
Wimbledon was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic while the 2021 edition took place at reduced capacity with players confined to a bubble.
Cornet claimed that at Roland Garros earlier this month there was an “epidemic” of coronavirus.
“In the dressing room, everyone had it and we didn’t say anything,” Cornet explained. “I saw girls wearing masks, maybe because they knew and didn’t want to pass it on.”
Hours later, Cornet backtracked on her claims, writing on social media that she had “suspected only a few cases of Covid during Roland Garros, without having any proof”.
“It was mostly to emphasize that the virus was now part of our lives and that we had to deal with it,” she said.
Nadal said he was told by a physiotherapist on the men’s ATP tour that it was up to the players whether they tested themselves or not.
“Now if you tell me that even if you test positive you can continue to play, that’s something I didn’t know. The only thing I knew is it’s up to you, even if you feel bad, whether you want to be tested or not.”
Nadal was speaking after overcoming a scare in his Wimbledon opener, fighting back after losing the third set and falling in the fourth to finally see Argentine Francisco Cerundolo.
The second seed, playing on grass for the first time since his 2019 Wimbledon semi-final loss to Roger Federer, triumphed 6-4, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 over 41st-seeded Cerundolo , who made his All Debut in an English club.
But the 36-year-old Spaniard, who has already won the Australian Open and the French Open this year to stand halfway through the first Slam on the men’s calendar since 1969, did it the hard way.
After coming through the first two sets on center court, he gave up an early break in the third set and then had to come back from 3-1 down and 4-2 down in the fourth.
“Three years without being here on this incredible surface, it’s amazing to be back,” Nadal said.
Nadal, Wimbledon champion in 2008 and 2010, arrived at the tournament with question marks over his durability for the two weeks after playing the entire French Open with his troublesome left foot anesthetized.
He has since undergone a course of radiofrequency stimulation, a treatment aimed at reducing nerve pain in his foot.
Nadal will face Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania for a place in the last 32.