As the Rogers Cup nears its closing stages, and Novak Djokovic eyes the prize at the end of the road, somewhere not too far away, Roger Federer is sitting back on his recliner and relishing his chances at the Cincinnati Masters and U.S. Open.
Why? Well, he is in form while his rivals are either struggling with theirs or with injuries and, secondly, he is resting for what is to come.
This isn't the same story with world No. 3 Rafael Nadal.
The 11-time Grand Slam champion, having pulled out early last week from the ongoing Rogers Cup in Toronto with injury, has now pulled out of the Cincinnati Masters.
This piece of news, however, isn't important just for the obvious reasons.
Of course, his withdrawal will represent a third straight tournament that Nadal will miss through injury. It will also mean that half the Cincinnati draw will be partly open. Most importantly perhaps, it also puts doubt not only on Nadal's U.S. Open participation, but also on his chances if he does participate.
Anyone can reel off the stats about Nadal's recent U.S. Open exploits (i.e. he has been a semifinalist, a winner and a finalist in his last three appearances at Flushing Meadows). This, however, can do nothing to prevent a rather grim prognosis of his current chances at the Open.
Everyone knows Nadal is a momentum player and pretty nigh on impossible to stop when in form. The way he typically rules the clay-court season and transfers his success to grass is testament to this. It is the absence of this momentum (forgetting his lack of form for a moment) that is troubling.
Is Nadal a real contender for the U.S. Open title?
It's hard to write him off, but in missing the two main preparatory tournaments before the U.S. Open, the answer to that question is leaning heavily toward "No."
This article is part of a series looking at contenders and non-contenders for the 2012 U.S. Open title.
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