Nadal Withdraws From Wimbledon - Tennis

Nadal Withdraws From Wimbledon

Rafael Nadal announced Friday that he would skip Wimbledon this year, citing tendinitis in his knees.

“I played underneath myself for the last few months,” he said at a news conference at the All England Club, only three days before the 2009 championships begin. Nadal was the top-seeded player.


Rafael Nadal, who played an exhibition against Stanislas Wawrinka on Friday, announced that he would not play at Wimbledon.

“I could not play close to my best,” Nadal said, insisting he would work hard to “come back as soon as possible.”

Asked if he had been told by doctors that he was suffering from a long-term or permanent injury, Nadal replied: “I can recover for sure.”

Nadal’s departure commences a symphony of musical chairs within the men’s draw.

But under rules observed at the four major international championships, Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina, seeded fifth, moves into Nadal’s slot at the top of the draw. James Blake of the United States, seeded 17th, moves into Del Potro’s position. Nicolas Kiefer of Germany, seeded 33rd, moves into Blake’s position.

The unseeded Thiago Alves of Brazil, who lost in the final qualifying round, takes Kiefer’s slot, gaining entry into the main draw, making him what is customarily called a Lucky Loser.

Nadal announced his decision after playing an exhibition against Stanislas Wawrinka. Although he won the first set, 6-4, he lost the second, 7-6, and then lost a tie breaker. On Thursday, it was clear that his knees were bothering him. He played Lleyton Hewitt in an exhibition and lost, 6-4, 6-3, at the Hurlingham Club in London.

The Times Online, referring to Toni Nadal, his uncle and coach, reported:

When Toni urged his nephew to “bend down” to the ball during the second set yesterday, the Wimbledon champion appeared to mutter, “I can’t.”

According to records of the All England Club, Nadal is the second player in the past 35 years not to defend his championship. Goran Ivanesevic of Croatia won the title in 2001 and did not compete in 2002.

Some tennis observers have openly questioned the extent of Nadal’s knee injury after his fourth-round loss to Robin Soderling at the French Open, calling it gamesmanship or a public relations smokescreen.

But it is precisely Nadal’s never-say-die playing style, one that involves covering every inch of the court, and often several feet beyond the baseline and doubles alleys, that has both battered opponents into submission in his rise to the top and battered his knees through cumulative wear and tear. The effect of this tenacious physicality is compounded by the number of matches he plays — he enters nearly every tournament, and usually reaches the finals.

As Cynthia Gorney writes in The New York Times Magazine:

Nadal is muscled-up and explosive and relentless, so that his best tennis looks not like a gift from heaven but instead like the product of ferocious will. His victories and his taped-up knees and his years as a very good No. 2 in the world all resonate together, as though the rewards and the wages of individual effort had been animated in a single human being: if you hurl yourself at a particular goal furiously enough and long enough you may tear your body up in the process, but maybe you can get there after all.

While it’s too early to know for sure, if Nadal is out for an extended period, several possibilities emerge:

1) Nadal’s early exit at Roland Garros not only paved the way for Roger Federer to win the French Open and complete a career Slam, but now his absence at Wimbledon also opens the door for the Swiss great to regain the No. 1 ranking he so desperately craves and continue to dominate tennis for years to come.

2) Andy Murray, fresh off his Queen’s Club victory, pulls off an upset of Federer at Wimbledon and at least temporarily takes Nadal’s place in the rivalry that has held a thrilling stranglehold on the sport for over four years.

3) Over the next year or two, the game moves beyond the Federer-Nadal era entirely, leaving Murray and Djokovic to fend off del Potro, Tsonga, Cilic, Monfils and other talented up-and-comers. There could be a different winner at each of the Slams. Imagine that!

4) Nadal takes time to recuperate and comes back at top form. But does he play a different style of tennis? Does he play fewer events?

Source: New york Times