Washington, Jul 29 (EFE).- Spanish tennis great Rafael Nadal will end his brief summer hiatus when he takes part in next week’s Citi Open in Washington DC, a US Open tune-up event that he will be competing in for the first time in his illustrious career.
Nadal has not played an ATP Tour match since his four-set defeat at the hands of Serbian world No. 1 and arch-rival Novak Djokovic in the French Open semifinals on June 11, when the 13-time champion lost for just the third time at the sport’s biggest clay-court event.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion plans to arrive in the nation’s capital on Saturday and train at the site of that hard-court event on both weekend days, tournament organizers said Thursday.
Several qualifying matches will be played on those two days, but the world No. 3 is not scheduled to play his opening match until Wednesday, Aug. 4. The tournament will run from July 31 to Aug. 8.
The 35-year-old Spaniard announced after Roland Garros that he had chosen to withdraw from both Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics, saying in a statement that he had made the decision after “listening to his body” following “the always demanding clay court season.”
“The goal is to prolong my career and continue to do what makes me happy, that is to compete at the highest level and keep fighting for those professional and personal goals at the maximum level of competition,” Nadal tweeted.
His next major objective is the Aug. 30-Sept. 12 US Open, where Nadal will be seeking an Open Era record-tying fifth men’s singles title at Flushing Meadows and an unprecedented 21st Grand Slam men’s singles title.
Nadal and fellow all-time greats Djokovic and Roger Federer, both of whom will be competing in New York, currently share the men’s Slam record.
The US Open has unique significance this year because Djokovic will be seeking an extremely rare calendar-year Grand Slam (titles at the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open in the same season) in New York and possibly a so-called Golden Slam if he wins the men’s singles title at the ongoing Tokyo Olympics.
In a press release on July 8, the Citi Open hailed Nadal’s upcoming “historic Washington DC debut,” noting that Arthur Ashe, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl and Andre Agassi have played that event in the past but that none of those great champions had 20 Grand Slam singles titles to his name.
“We are thrilled to welcome Rafael Nadal, who is not just one of the greatest tennis players of all-time, but also a global sporting icon and inspiring role model to our Washington community this summer,” Citi Open Chairman and CEO of MDE Tennis Mark Ein was quoted as saying in the press release.
“I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate the joyous return of the things we cherish like live sports, coming together as a community and our historic event than having Rafa and the rest of our very deep and exciting player field competing for the Citi Open title.”
The press release noted that Nadal will be seeking his 89th tournament title in Washington against a solid field that includes 2021 Wimbledon semifinalists Denis Shapovalov and Hubert Hurkacz, 2021 Wimbledon quarterfinalists Felix Auger-Aliassime and Karen Khachanov, as well as other talented players including Nick Kyrgios, Milos Raonic, Grigor Dimitrov and Alex de Minaur. EFE