London 2012: Rafael Nadal Still a Co-Favorite Despite Injury News

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London 2012: Rafael Nadal Still a Co-Favorite Despite Injury News
Clive Rose/Getty Images

On the heels of his shocking second-round exit at Wimbledon, Rafael Nadal announced Wednesday that he's taking a 15-day break from both practice and match play due to knee tendinitis.

Before you go all "sky is falling on me" and bury Nadal's chances of winning a second consecutive gold medal later this summer at the 2012 London Olympics, take a deep breath.

This isn't a death knell of even a particularly grim diagnosis. This is a player taking precaution with a chronic injury so he can be his best self in late July.

That's all.

Even with this latest development, I'd still peg Nadal as a gold-medal co-favorite alongside Novak Djokovic.

So, why aren't I freaking out?

For starters, the knee issues aren't new with Nadal. He's had this condition on and off since 2009 and has become quite adept at managing it.

Nadal and his team do a great job finding little pockets of downtime before major tournaments. With London clogging up Nadal's midsummer schedule, it was imperative to get the champ some rest if he was feeling some strain. Hence the 15-day hiatus.

I also wouldn't put too much stock in Nadal's recent Wimbledon loss.

Nadal has never had the Swiss-clock consistency of Roger Federer. He bowed out in the quarterfinals of the 2010 and 2011 Australian Open and even lost in the third round of a French Open tune-up tournament earlier this year.

None of the cited examples resonate quite as much as a second-round loss to an unseeded journeyman, but just know Nadal isn't immune to earlier-round upsets.

More to the point, his losses don't portend any sustained decline in play. They're just blips.

And then there's the matter of Olympic tennis, a format that should favor Nadal if he is indeed feeling a bit under par.

Clive Rose/Getty Images

For those unaware, the Olympics is a three-set tournament (instead of the usual five) with the exception of the gold-medal match. Nadal won't have to grind for four-plus hours and he won't need to exert extra energy dusting early-round opponents.

In fact, if he'd had that advantage at Wimbledon, he wouldn't have lost to second-round foe Lukas Rosol.

Even better, this year's Olympics will be the first since 1992 held on a surface other than hardcourt. Wimbledon's grass should be far easier on Nadal's knees than the DecoTurf surface he tackled back in Beijing.

Bottom line: Don't overreact.

Nadal knows how to gauge this injury and he should be well-rested for the task ahead. Tempting as it is to combine this latest news with his Wimbledon exit and call Nadal toast, the nuances won't allow it.

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