by JAMES HENRY
CINCINNATI – Rafael Nadal’s announcement that he will not compete at the U.S. Open was a big surprise – and disappointment – to players at the Western & Southern Open.
Novak Djokovic, who defeated Nadal for the U.S. Open title last year, said he wished a quick recovery for his rival.
“I really don’t know what the injury is and how serious it is. Obviously, it’s that serious that it takes him, you know, out from the tour for last couple of months,” Djokovic said.
“He’s a great competitor,” he added. “He’s somebody I know really well on and off the court. I’m sure that if he was able to perform in U.S. Open he would come.”
Andy Murray noted he likes Nadal a lot as a friend.
“It’s obviously a shame,” Murray said. “I’m disappointed for him. But I think for tennis and also at major competitions, it’s a huge benefit when you have the top players playing.”
“It’s obviously tough for him. He’s had trouble with his knees in the past,” he said. “I hope he can rest, doesn’t come back too early and gets them fixed so he can get back to playing his best tennis.”
Mardy Fish hadn’t yet heard the news.
“That’s too bad,” he lamented. “You felt like if he wasn’t able to come to at least here – a lot of guys took Toronto off, but at least come here. Maybe he was in trouble. So it’s a shame.
“You know, he made the final last year and he’s the past champion year before that. He’ll be missed.”
It also was a shock to Juan Martín del Potro, the 2009 U.S. Open champion.
“I wish him very fast recovery for him. We miss him in these kind of tournament,” he said. “It’s really tough moment for him, for sure. I wish all the best, a good recovery. I don’t have too many words to say.”
Five-time U.S. Open winner Roger Federer, however, said he saw it coming.
“I wrote him, and he told me like it wasn’t looking good at all,” he said. “Obviously when it’s official, it’s disappointing for tennis, there’s no doubt about it.
“I would love to have him in the draw. In particular, sort of the 12 days before the Open, you figure he might still have time to fix what he has to fix to get ready. If he pulls out that early before the Open, it must be something serious – that’s what is sort of scary.”
Federer noted there now is a debate whether Nadal, who has not competed since losing in the second round of Wimbledon in June, will return to the ATP World Tour at all this year.
“I hope he will,” he said. “I hope in hindsight this is a very smart decision for him. But it’s obviously a big blow and disappointing news for the tennis world.”
Milos Raonic conceded most players in Cincinnati were more focused on their own matches than Nadal’s knee injury.
“I don’t think too many players concern themselves too deeply about it. Everybody pretty much in the locker room had a match today. I don’t think it was by any means any, say, priority for them, that kind of news,” he said.
“It’s a little bit sad just because he’s a really good guy and a lot of people get along with him. But at the same time, it’s a competitive sport.”
James Henry is a contributing writer for OnTheGoTennis and is currently in Cincinnati covering the tournament. To follow him on Twitter click here.