Rafael Nadal announced his withdrawal from the 2021 U.S. Open, tennis' final Grand Slam tournament of the year, on Friday and confirmed he will sit out the remainder of the season because of a lingering foot injury.
"I am very sorry to announce that I won't be able to keep playing tennis during the 2021 season," Nadal said. "But as you know, I have been suffering too much with my foot for the last year now, and I missed a lot of important events for me."
Nadal fell short in his quest to capture a 14th French Open title earlier in the year, losing his semifinal with eventual champion Novak Djokovic in four sets.
The 35-year-old then sat out for nearly two months, missing Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics, before returning in early August for a U.S. Open Series event in Washington, D.C. He suffered a loss to Lloyd Harris in the round of 16 and didn't play in the subsequent warm-up tournaments.
Now Nadal will be sidelined until 2022, though he revealed his intention to return once healthy with hope for a "couple of beautiful years" to finish his career.
"The injury is nothing new," he said Friday. "It is the same injury I am having since 2005. In that moment the doctors were very negative about my future career, but honestly I was able to have a career I was unable to ever dream about, so I am confident I will recover again."
Longtime friendly rival Roger Federer, 40, has also withdrawn from the U.S. Open because of knee surgery, his third in the past 18 months.
It leaves Djokovic as the only member of tennis' Big Three heading to New York City as he attempts to become the first men's singles player to complete the calendar Grand Slam since Rod Laver in 1969.
He's already won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon, though he fell short in his attempt to win the Golden Slam with a semifinal loss to Alexander Zverev at the Tokyo Olympics in July.
Meanwhile, Nadal is a 20-time major champion, with the U.S. Open (four titles) ranking as his second-most successful Grand Slam tournament across a two-decade career.
The Australian Open, the first major of the 2022 campaign, is scheduled to begin Jan. 17. That gives the event's 2009 champion just under five months for recovery if he's going to make the trip to Melbourne Park.