New York, Aug 26 (EFE).- Rafael Nadal said Friday he feels sad that fellow all-time tennis great Novak Djokovic is unable to compete in the US Open, which gets under way on Monday in New York.
Under the United States’ coronavirus rules for non-citizens, the Serbian 21-time Grand Slam men’s singles champion is not permitted to enter the country because he has chosen not to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
“From my personal perspective, it’s very sad news. It’s always a shame when the best players of the world are not able to play a tournament because of injuries or because of different reasons,” the 36-year-old Spaniard, winner of a record 22 men’s Grand Slam singles titles, said.
“In this case, not having one of the best players of the history in the draw of Grand Slam is always an important miss, no?”
Nadal will be vying for his third Grand Slam title of the season at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center after coming out on top at the Australian Open, where Djokovic also was not allowed to compete due to coronavirus rules, and Roland Garros.
The 35-year-old Djokovic won the year’s third Grand Slam event – Wimbledon.
“As I said, tough for the fans, tough for the tournament,” Nadal said. “In my opinion, tough for the players, too, because we want to have the best field possible.”
The Spaniard, however, said the US Open retains its prestige despite a top player’s absence for whatever reason.
“In the other hand, I repeat what I said plenty of times: the sport in some ways is bigger than any player. I missed a lot of important events in my tennis career because of injuries, without a doubt. Last year I was not here. Two years ago I was not here. The tournament continues. The world of tennis keep going.”
Nadal missed the 2020 and 2021 editions of the US Open, a hard-court event he has won on four occasions, due to pandemic-related safety concerns and a foot injury, respectively.
He said he is satisfied with his pre-tournament training in recent days but that the abdominal injury he suffered at Wimbledon (which forced him to withdraw from the tournament prior to his semifinal match) is still causing him some discomfort when he serves.
“(It) is a tough injury because it’s dangerous, it’s risky. When you have a scar, it’s a place that you put a lot of effort when you are serving,” Nadal, the tournament’s No. 2 seed behind Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, said.
“You need to find flexibility again because when you have a scar there (at the) beginning it’s not flexible … The risk of breaking when you are doing an important movement back there on a thing that is not flexible like before, the risk is higher,” the Spaniard said.
“I’m practicing at a high level of intensity. I’m quite happy with the way I’m playing. From my perspective, I’m practicing quite well. Let’s see what can happen.”
Nadal has played only one tournament match since Wimbledon – a first-round loss at last week’s Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati to eventual champion Borna Coric of Croatia. EFE