Rafael Nadal announces end to 2021 season through injury
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Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal will find it “painful” if Novak Djokovic overtakes their record of 20 Grand Slam titles at the upcoming US Open. Former British No 1 Annabel Croft believes they will find it difficult to watch their long-time rival potentially make history in New York when their respective ongoing injuries have forced them out of competition for several months.
Roger Federer recently announced he would be away from the tour for “many months” as he undergoes his third right knee surgery since the beginning of 2020.
The world No 9 has been battling with an ongoing knee injury that forced him to shut down his 2020 season before the tour stopped for several months during the coronavirus pandemic.
He has played just five tournaments since making his comeback this year, and revealed he suffered a “setback” with the injury during the grass court season, first withdrawing from the Olympics and the Masters events in Toronto and Cincinnati, and later announcing his decision to have surgery.
Meanwhile, Nadal has been struggling with a foot injury since he suffered a shock defeat to Djokovic in the French Open semi-final.
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The Spaniard later withdrew from Wimbledon and the Olympics, revealing the injury left him unable to play tennis for 20 days.
He returned to competition in Washington, planning to start his North American hard court season early following an unexpected break from the grass-court season, and won a tight three-set match against Jack Sock before losing another close battle to Lloyd Harris.
The world No 5 flew to Canada intending to compete in the Masters 1000 event but pulled out ahead of another clash with Harris, travelling back home to consult with his personal doctor.
He later announced he was withdrawing from the US Open and shutting down his season early to help the left foot injury recover, planning to return in 2022.
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With both men side-lined from the US Open, Annabel Croft says she won’t write them off but predicts they’ll struggle to see Djokovic potentially overtake their Grand Slam record in Flushing Meadows.
“I’ve learned over the years that you never, ever write these great champions off,” she told the Express.
“I’ve done that too many times in the past and been burned for it so I’ve learned never to do that, when a great champion has that champion’s mentality, they always believe in themselves and anything can happen. They can just flick a switch and everything can just start to flood into play.”
The Prime Video analyst pointed out that their issue was their injuries rather than a lack of passion for playing tennis, which would make it more difficult to be missing the final Grand Slam of the year.
She said: “With both of them, clearly their bodies are letting them down more than their tennis and their desire because each one of them wants to end up being the greatest that’s ever played, and they’ve thrown everything into their career to be able to do that and they’ve left no stone unturned and been utterly professional.
“So it must be painful for them with the body letting them down now, and obviously the rival they have with Djokovic, they’re about to maybe witness him going one ahead. We don’t know.”
Annabel pointed out that it was still uncertain whether the world No 1 would be able to capture the title in New York, where he could also become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win the Calendar Grand Slam.
“I always remember Virginia Wade many years ago saying to me ‘I think they’re all going to end up on the same’ and she said that to me about five years ago so maybe she’s right, it was quite interesting,” she recalled.
“I think it must be painful for them the fact that they’re not there and then they could potentially be watching their rival go one ahead. So we’ll have to wait and see but it’s not going to be easy for Djokovic, that’s for sure.”
The US Open is available to watch on Prime Video from Monday 30th August.
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