Rafael Nadal: Why Spanish Star's Absence Is Trouble for US Open
The U.S. Open doesn't have the cache of Wimbledon, or the clay courts of the French Open. Unfortunately, the tournament also doesn't have one of tennis' biggest stars—Rafael Nadal.
The Spaniard was forced to withdraw due to a lingering knee injury, and the reverberations of the news have been far reaching.
Certain nemeses will enjoy an easier route to collecting a Grand Slam title. Additionally, unknowns will be given a better opportunity to make an impression on the big stage.
Nadal's withdrawal will be a blessing for those individuals.
However, that won't be the case for the Open, which will have to bear the burden of his absence for the following reasons.
Nadal has made the last two finals
Whoever brings home the title can still consider himself a champion since there is plenty of world-class talent left in the field. Yet, there will always be that hidden asterisk denoting the vacancy of a top-tier player.
Nadal didn't have a presence in the final match of the tournament until 2010, when he won the entire thing. He followed up that performance by marching back to the championship round, only to be bested by Novak Djokovic.
Those showings demonstrate a player who had grown comfortable at Flushing Meadows. Not having to beat a competitor who has accomplished what he has for the past two years decreases the level of achievement in winning this year's Open.
Rivalries drive television ratings
Tennis isn't a mainstream sport. In order to draw in the casual viewer, the U.S. Open has to be able to promote a large match.
Losing Nadal lowers the odds of getting a prime matchup. Just check out the history he has with three of the biggest names in the sport.
Roger Federer: These two have met in a record eight Grand Slam finals, including the unforgettable 2008 Wimbledon championship.
The mentioned match lasted four hours and 48 minutes, and catapulted Nadal up a historic notch or two. There would have been no shortage of viewers for such a heavily enjoyed clash.
Novak Djokovic: Don't take my word for it. ATPworldtour.com ranked this feud as the third best of the 2000s (check out No. 1).
Djokovic had taken Nadal in the last three Grand Slam finals in which they met before the Spaniard broke through at the 2012 French Open. Who would take him the next round would have been intriguing television.
Andy Murray: These two don't have the same history as the others, but the rising Murray and Nadal would have still drawn great ratings. Nadal knocked Murray out of three Slam events in 2011. Surely, Murray would have enjoyed battling through the Nadal if he is to win his first Slam title.
Nadal is more exciting than everyone else
To the unsophisticated tennis crowd, the game can be boring to watch. The players are generally respectful of each other and the sport, which is nice, but doesn't exactly incite a passion in the American public.
However, Nadal is different. People tune in to watch him perform and are drawn to his enthusiastic style of play. He punctuates his points with excitement and energy.
You can tell he thoroughly enjoys playing the game, and those types of things can capture the attention of even the most despondent observers.
In short, Nadal is a titan of the tennis world. The U.S. Open will continue without him, it just won't be better for it.
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