Rafael Nadal said on Friday that he is saddened by Novak Djokovic’s absence from the US Open as he returns to the tournament for the first time in three years. The Spanish legend has not played in New York since beating Daniil Medvedev in five sets to win the 2019 title. Nadal has added three more Grand Slam titles to his streak since that win, taking his tally to 22 – the all-time men’s record.
While the 36-year-old will add to that number in the next two weeks in New York, Nadal admitted on Friday that Djokovic’s absence made him “very sad”.
Djokovic confirmed on Thursday that he will not play a part in the tournament after refusing to be vaccinated against Covid-19 – putting him at odds with the US government’s travel requirements for international visitors.
“From my personal perspective, it’s very sad news,” Nadal said.
“It’s always a shame when the best players in the world can’t play a tournament due to injuries or other reasons.
“In this case, having one of the best players in history in the Grand Slam draw isn’t always a major miss, isn’t it? Difficult for the fans, difficult for the tournament. In my opinion, also difficult for the players, because we want to have the best field possible.”
But despite Djokovic’s absence, Nadal is adamant that the tournament will not be diminished by the non-participation of the Serbian great, who is just one behind the Spaniard in Grand Slam titles with 21.
“I repeat what I’ve said many times: the sport is bigger than any player in some ways,” said Nadal.
“Without a doubt, I missed many important events in my tennis career due to injuries. I was not there last year. I was not there two years ago. The tournament continues. The tennis world continues.”
“Even if that’s not good news for everyone, the world goes on and tennis continues after me, after Novak, after Roger (Federer).”
Nadal started 2022 in a blistering fashion, winning both the Australian Open and French Open before an abdominal injury forced him to scratch out of the Wimbledon semi-final.
He returned from that injury at the Cincinnati Masters this month, but got out in the second round. Nadal said Friday that he protected the injury during his comeback in Cincinnati.
“It’s a serious injury because it’s dangerous, it’s risky,” he said. “When you have a scar, it’s a place where you put a lot of effort into serving.
“I also take it very easy in the Cincinnati, also during the training sessions. The game, I do my best without making all the effort to serve there.”
Nadal, who opens his US Open campaign on Tuesday against Australian wildcard entrant Rinky Hijikata, was cautiously optimistic about his preparations.
“I do things the best I can,” he said. “I hope to be ready for the action, don’t you? That’s all I can say.
“Be careful with the service, be honest. But in general, yes, I practice at a high level of intensity.”
(This story was not edited by The Switzerland Times staff and was generated automatically Platforms.)
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