Nadal's Withdrawal Opens Wimbledon Draw

Bleacher Report Correspondent IJune 19, 2009

PARIS - MAY 31:  Rafael Nadal of Spain looks on during the Men's Singles Fourth Round match against Robin Soderling of Sweden on day eight of the French Open at Roland Garros on May 31, 2009 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

There are obvious ramifications upon the announcement that Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from Wimbledon to tend to his recurrent bout with tendinitis.

Roger Federer, the man who captured the only Grand Slam to elude his grasp at Rolland Garros only a month ago, once again sees his path ploughed; while Andy Murray, the No. 3 seed at the Championships, has his chances of being the first Briton since Virginia Wade in 1977 to win Wimbledon indefinitely amplified—along with the pressure, too.

The fallout of Nadal’s struggle with his knees is an issue that has surfaced at many other points of his career. And considering he had looked poised to hamper any response from Federer after the Australian Open was won by the Spaniard, the timing of his withdrawal is perhaps even more jarring. While he didn’t say it was a serious injury, there are doubts arising about whether he can play on the tour beyond his 30s.

“There’s no option. I don’t feel ready to compete 100 percent for two weeks,” he said in a press conference after playing a second exhibition match at Hurlingham Club in south London. “I think I reached the limit right now. I need to reset to come back stronger.

“It’s not chronic. I can recover, for sure.”

For Federer can reassert his claim to the throne of the ATP tour, and perhaps all-time greatness, with a sixth victory at the All England Club. The punctuated absence of Nadal would surely sap the poignancy of another title, if Federer so happens to pull off the record-setting 15th feat in his career, and that would cue another debate pertaining to his perceived eminence in the sport.

All that discussion aside, there is another key attribute that should be assessed before the tournament begins and the newly installed retractable roof is ever put to use.

As Robin Soderling demonstrated in his advancement to the final in Paris, in which he lost to Federer, the men’s tour is starring at an incumbent opportunity, and maybe even dire for those cynics, for the field of play to illustrate it holds talent through the ranks.

Soderling, whose recent illness has jeopardized his participation in the tournament after notching the No. 12 rank, exemplifies the possibility of seeing a dark horse not simply run the perimeter, but penetrate into the second week of play.

Gael Monfils, a player who has been touted as France’s biggest rising talent, could very well produce memories of monumental value, as some believe he is due for a Grand Slam run away from his home country.

Jo-Wilfred Tsonga, an Australian Open finalist in 2008; Novak Djokovic, who was relegated to the No. 4 position as a testimony to his ebbed play in recent months; and Juan Martin Del Potro, the 20-year-old sensation who has began to take a liking to upper echelon circuits: all could relish and revel in Nadal’s stead.

It is a chance to prove to critics of even Federer’s outstanding numbers, too, that the tour in which he plays is not diluted or debilitated by the overwhelming dominance exhibited by him and Nadal.

All of these airy possibilities, though, would have been so ill-conceived 60 days ago, when Nadal was typically—and expectedly—ripping the clay court circuit in Monaco, Rome and then Madrid and his marathon with Djokovic in the semifinals. To think Nadal would not etch his name exclusively in the record books with a fifth straight French Open victory would have been aberrant, if not an out-on-a-limb moment.

To think Nadal would not even be a part of a defence in London would have been met with a shocking look of disbelief.

Undoubtedly, he made the correct decision by not endangering the longevity of his career.

Now, several players, not just Federer, could be the beneficiaries of his sabbatical.