WASHINGTON, November 3, 2017 (by Michael Dickens)
World No. 1 Rafael Nadal pulled out of his Paris Rolex Masters quarterfinal Friday, just hours before he was scheduled to face qualifier Filip Krajinovic. In doing so, he forfeited an opportunity to go after a rare ATP Masters 1000 title which has eluded him. For a city like Paris, which over the length of his storied career has brought Nadal a tremendous amount of joy and triumph – winning 10 French Open singles championships at Roland Garros will do that – today, it brought lots of disappointment.
After securing the season-ending No. 1 ranking on Wednesday, many – including myself – wondered if the rest of the 2017 season had much meaning for the Spaniard. For one thing, the thoughtful and competitive guy that Nadal is, I’m guessing he wanted to see if he could play one more match after receiving treatment Thursday night following his grinding, three-set win over Pablo Cuevas in the tournament’s third round. And, obviously, he wanted to show his support for his fans and for tournament director Guy Forget. Characteristic of Nadal, he plays until he cannot.
Then, Friday’s bummer of a press conference came about, which seemed quite sudden and a little surprising. I caught a glimpse of it on TV, tuning in to watch on Tennis Channel here in the U.S., while waiting for the John Isner-Juan Martin del Potro quarterfinal to heat up. With arms folded and his cap pulled down just a little more than usual, Nadal stared mostly at the microphone placed in front of him – choosing his words carefully – while making little eye contact with the media. After all, when Rafa speaks, the media listens.
“I had to pull out. Of course, it’s a very hard decision for me – especially pulling out of an event like this,” said Nadal, disappointed but brutally honest nonetheless. “It’s a tough situation, but my goal coming here was to try my best. It’s a sad day for me. I came here to do my best and to go as far as I can.”
As he faced the media, Nadal was his usual philosophical self. “I did all the things I had to do to play this event. I did one treatment hast night to try to play today, but it’s impossible to go like yesterday. I had to pull out. That’s it. I’m sorry for the fans, sorry for the tournament.”
The first thing that came to mind as I watched Nadal’s announcement was this: What does his withdrawal at Paris Bercy mean in terms of his fitness and readiness for the ATP Final in London, just a little over a week away? How serious is his knee injury?
In the next few days, we’ll find out if Nadal’s knee can mend itself in time for London, or if he’ll simply become the latest casualty in a tennis season full of them. Indeed, four of the five best players in the world are hurt. The casualty list has been a long one this year, including: Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori, Gäel Monfils, Nick Kyrgios, Milos Raonic. And remember, World No. 2 Roger Federer took a pass on Paris Bercy this week in order to rest his back following his title win Sunday at Basel with the hope of being ready for London. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that Federer is fit, or else …
Once again, we’re left asking the obvious questions: Is the ATP season too long, too demanding? What can be done to keep the biggest stars of tennis fit and healthy by year’s end? The ATP “Race to London” has been an arduous one, for certain. However, instead of London being a season-ending celebration, it’s fast becoming a survival of the fittest.
About the author:
Michael Dickens is a Washington, D.C.-based freelance journalist who writes and blogs about tennis.