News came out Wednesday that is sure to rock the world of British tennis, as golden son Andy Murray's probable absence from the 2013 French Open is sure to change the entire outlook of the year's first Grand Slam major.
The Telegraph's Simon Briggs reported Murray's self-proclaimed doubtful prognosis for the tournament due to a recurring disc problem in his lower back.
Murray credited much of this decision to the rigors that come with entering a major and what he typically expects from his body in those situations. His answer gave some foreshadowing to another familiar tournament that seems to be catching his eye more at the moment.
You need to be practising and training 100 per cent before going into a grand slam. The French is incredibly physical. It’s come at a tough time just now, so I need to make a decision and not do anything silly.
Depending on what happens at the French I will obviously do everything I can to make sure I’m 100 percent for Wimbledon but we’ll have to wait and see.
The simple fact that Murray is already looking ahead to Wimbledon isn't cowardly by any means, but it shows you that his body simply isn't going to be ready to compete for a major by the time the French rolls around next weekend.
This injury isn't exactly a new occurrence for Murray, but it's certainly a development that's going to shake the way the French Open unfolds. With an even hobbled Murray in the playing field, you'd have to assume he could stroll through onto the quarterfinals before being seriously tested. With the way his 2012 season ended, he could even make a semifinal or final run in serious pain.
But we won't have the luxury of seeing that in Paris this year.
Instead, the 2012 U.S. Open and Olympic champion's absence will open up plenty of room for the sport's elite to shine. There are a handful of competitors in this sport who are eager to make the next step, but have just been pushed out by elite talent in the forms of Murray, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
I like Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to make a deep run to the semifinals and perhaps the championship match with Murray out. If he can stay on the opposite side of the bracket as Nadal, he could very well go all the way to the final day.
American Mardy Fish is also ready to break out, and Murray's absence could make things a bit simpler for him to do so.
But when it comes down to it, there's one head-and-shoulders favorite to the French Open that not even Murray's presence could deter. That man is Rafa Nadal.
It seems even in his bad seasons, Nadal takes the French Open with ease. The clay-court specialist has won there seven times, with 2009 being the only year since 2005 that he didn't pull it out.
And despite the young up-and-comers, Federer has still shown that experience and skill trumps everything. One of the greatest tennis players ever shouldn't be discounted in this conversation as a favorite to face Nadal in the final.
Plus, don't forget about Novak Djokovic, who had a historic grip over the sport heading into 2012.
Murray is certainly one of the favorites heading into the 2013 Wimbledon tournament, but for now, we're talking about clay courts. Nadal should be the only one you expect to fall down onto the court in jubilation when it's all said and done.
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