Confirmation that Rafa Nadal will not be playing at this year’s US Open, is not unexpected, but the additional news that he will be hanging up his racket for the rest of the season, certainly is.
Honestly, I've been suffering a lot more than I should with my foot for a year and I need to take some time. Rafa Nadal
The Spanish icon cited his lingering foot injury as the reason behind his decision which he announced on Friday on social media as follows:
“Hello everyone, I wanted to inform you that unfortunately I have to end the 2021 season. Honestly, I’ve been suffering a lot more than I should with my foot for a year and I need to take some time.”
For Nadal that foot injury has a lot to answer for starting with the French Open where, as the 14-time champion, he lost to rival Novak Djokovic, in the semi-finals.
He then missed Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics, making his return to the tour early August at the Washington DC tournament to start warming up for the final major of the season in New York, beginning 30th August.
But he lost to Lloyd Harris in the second round and pulled out of Toronto and Cincinnati, always citing his foot injury as being the problem.
Is this the start of his ‘retirement’?
Unlikely. He knows he has a few more years in the tank once he gets his foot back in operation and admitted as much when he said he intended to return once healthy, with hopes for a “couple of beautiful years” to finish his career.
Meanwhile Djokovic, who replaced him as French Open champion, is now hot favourite to claim the US Open and secure the Grand Slam of the 2021 season. If successful, he would be the first men’s singles player to complete that calendar Grand Slam since Rod Laver in 1969.
He was going for a ‘Golden Slam’ but failed to win the singles Olympic Gold medal and in fact, returned from Tokyo without a medal of any hue!
However, without the likes of Nadal, Roger Federer and the US Open defending champion Dominic Thiem playing New York, the Serbian is now carrying the weight of expectation to complete that slam.