NBC Summer Olympics 2012: How Rafael Nadal's Exit Will Benefit the Field

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NBC Summer Olympics 2012: How Rafael Nadal's Exit Will Benefit the Field
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With the 2012 Summer Olympics tennis event about to get underway, it is imperative that we analyze just how important Rafael Nadal's early withdrawal was and will be.

The Spaniard has had an interesting year to say the least.

Not only did he completely flip his rivalry with Novak Djokovic around—he also looked to be dominating the sport again.

Between him and Roger Federer winning tournaments, it seemed Nole's two measly wins were not good enough to keep him at the top of the rankings—and this turned out to be true.

Rafa has won the last three meetings against Djokovic, seemingly getting into the Serb's head somehow after all of the losses endured last year.

After reaching the Australian Open final (narrowly succumbing to Djokovic) and dominating the clay court season, it seemed that Rafa could at least give a good shot to going deep at Wimbledon.

He suffered a shocking loss in the second round and has now revealed that his knee tendinitis is too extreme for his participation in the Olympics.

It is unclear how he will end the year, and it is scary to think he may fall way down the rankings.

In the meantime, several players in the draw are jumping for joy now that the dangerous player is out. Dark horses can now go a few rounds further (especially in the best-of-three-sets format) and give their countries even greater pride and happiness.

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This could be good and bad for the Top-Four-ranked players in the draw, though it seems the dark horses will still be unable to win a medal.

Rafa is not in Roger's, Novak's, Andy's or Tsonga's way, amongst others.

The path for Roger and Novak to meet in the gold medal round is now nearly unobstructed.

Spain still has a great chance to earn a medal in general but Rafa's exit will almost guarantee the absence of a Gold spot.

The competition may even become more intense now that players recognize their greater chances to play an extra match or two.

It should be an interesting event, but the Olympics will miss Rafa (though he may not miss playing at Wimbledon with bad knees).

Follow Bleacher Report Tennis Featured Columnist and Community Leader, Jeff Cohn, on Twitter for updates on the tennis in London.

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