For the third straight season, Rafael Nadal will miss a Grand Slam event. The world No. 2 took to his Facebook page Monday to announce his withdrawal from the 2014 U.S. Open, citing his bothersome right wrist.
"I am very sorry to announce I won't be able to play at this year's U.S. Open a tournament on which I've played three consecutive finals in my last participations," Nadal wrote.
Nadal, 28, won last summer's U.S. Open to cap off one of his finest professional seasons. Although he has made the finals in his last three appearances in New York, this will be the second time in the last three years he's had to withdraw. Tendinitis in the Spaniard's knee caused him to withdraw from the 2012 U.S. Open, as well as the 2013 Australian Open.
While his knees have been sturdy the last two years, a wrist injury suffered in practice last month put him on the shelf. The injury forced him to withdraw from tune-up tournaments in Toronto and Cincinnati, though he remained hopeful he'd be healed in time for Flushing.
An exact diagnosis has not been publicly made available. The U.S. Open begins Aug. 25 and runs through Sept. 8. It is unclear when Nadal will return this season—if he will at all. In his statement, Nadal stated he will focus on his health in the interim to avoid any long-term complications.
"I am sure you understand that it is a very tough moment for me since it is a tournament I love and where I have great memories from fans, the night matches, so many things," Nadal wrote. "Not much more I can do right now, other than accept the situation and, as always in my case, work hard in order to be able to compete at the highest level once I am back."
Nadal has not competed since his fourth-round loss to Nick Kyrgios at Wimbledon. While he's a 14-time Grand Slam champion, the London grass courts have become something of a bugaboo for Nadal. His fourth-round appearance this year was his best since 2011, and he's now twice been injured at Wimbledon or in its immediate aftermath.
Nadal, whose win at last year's U.S. Open helped spur his ascent back to No. 1, has again fallen behind Novak Djokovic in 2014. His four calendar-year titles are less than half his total from last season, which has allowed Djokovic to take a 2,100-point lead in the world rankings.
The 27-year-old Serb won Wimbledon and will be a favorite on the American hard courts. Djokovic has made the finals in each of the last four years, though he's been bested on three of those four occasions. Last year Nadal defeated his rival 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 in a dominant performance.
Without Nadal, the men's side mostly comes down to a bunch of players trying to unseat Djokovic. Roger Federer, who should become the No. 2 seed, has an opportunity to atone for his heartbreaking Wimbledon defeat.
As tennis commentator David Law pointed out, this may also ensure Nadal-Federer never takes place on American Grand Slam soil:
The likes of Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and David Ferrer will also look to finish off their Slam season the right way. That said, it's hard to not look at the men's side with an air of inevitability at this point. Nadal and Djokovic have been so transcendently dominant all season that a possible rematch felt like a proper cap to the Slam season.
Instead, Nadal's withdrawal leaves the door wide-open for Djokovic to win his second Slam of 2014.
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