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Rafael Nadal pulls out of U.S. Open
Knee injury has kept Spaniard out since Wimbledon
NEW YORK — Rafael Nadal’s Grand Slam count will stay stuck at 11 for now, sidetracked by another knee problem.
Nadal is still only 26, but the withdrawals raise questions about the future of a player who has had recurring knee problems in the past.
His 11 Grand Slam titles include a record seven on the red clay of the French Open, yet his hard-charging, hard-hitting style of play takes a toll on his body, particularly his knees.
Roger Federer, in contrast, has played in every Grand Slam tournament since the start of 2000, a streak of 51 in a row.
In 2009, Nadal missed Wimbledon because of aching knees shortly after falling in the round of 16 at the French Open — the only time in eight appearances he hasn’t won at Roland Garros. He was just the second men’s champion in 35 years to decline to defend his title at the All England Club.
But Nadal eventually came back stronger than ever from that layoff. After failing to reach the final at the 2009 U.S. Open and 2010 Australian Open, he won the French to start a run of three straight major titles, capped by completing the career Grand Slam at Flushing Meadows.
Nadal’s absence immediately leaves a trio of heavy favorites at the last Grand Slam event of the year: defending champion Novak Djokovic; five-time U.S. Open winner and currently top-ranked Federer; and 2008 U.S. Open runner-up Andy Murray, who won the gold medal in singles at the London Games by beating Federer in the final.
“It’s obviously a shame. I like Rafa a lot as a friend,” Murray said after winning at the Western & Southern Open outside Cincinnati. “Yeah, I’m disappointed for him. But I think for tennis and also a major competition, it’s a huge benefit when you have the top players playing.
“It’s obviously tough for him. He’s had trouble with his knees in the past. So I hope he can rest, he doesn’t come back too early, and gets them fixed so he can get back to playing his best tennis.”
Nadal lost in the U.S. Open final to Djokovic last year, part of a stretch of three straight defeats to the Serb in championship matches at major tournaments. But he seemed to be closing the gap, and at Roland Garros in June, he beat Djokovic in the final for his record seventh title there.
“My excitement is always the same when I am approaching any Grand Slam. Obviously it’s the biggest tournaments we have in sport,” Djokovic said after winning his match at Cincinnati. “Yes, the fact is that tennis is going to lose a little bit because of Rafa not being there and playing, because he’s somebody that has made a history of this sport. We all know how good he is and how popular he is.”
By Tammy Bruce
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