Juan Martín del Potro out of U.S. Open; Rafael Nadal postpones decision

Stephanie Myles

The villain is the same: the wrist on the off-hand.

It means right-hander Juan Martín del Potro of Argentina, who was targeting a return at the U.S. Open after undergoing surgery on his left wrist March 24, won't be there after all.

It could mean that left-hander Rafael Nadal, who injured his right wrist during practice a few days before the Rogers Cup in Toronto last week and also is absent in Cincinnati this week, might miss it as well.

In Nadal's case, he has had a splint on the hand since the injury occurred July 30. He was to announce his decision on whether he would compete in New York on Friday.

Public-relations manager Benito Perez-Barbadillo made this announcement on Twitter:


Del Potro hasn't played since the tournament in Dubai in late February, when he retired in the second set of his first-round match against Somdev Devvarman of India. He returned to the court at the end of May, but without testing the surgically-repaired right wrist. He only hit his first backhands on July 24.

After his own injury, Nadal immediately began wearing a splint on the right wrist but continued to work on court, albeit with only his left arm.

It's impossible to read anything into the world No. 2's decision to postpone, either positively or negatively. History dictates that Nadal is unlikely to play unless he feels he can compete at 100 per cent.

For del Potro, it's another U.S. Open missed. For several years after his surprising run to the title at the U.S. Open in 2009, the Argentine was the only player outside the "top four" of Djokovic, Nadal, Federer and Murray to win a major. He stopped being a solo act only when Stan Wawrinka of Switzerland won the Australian Open this year.

Great things were expected; he was just 20 when he won in New York. The aftermath of that breakthrough Grand Slam victory has been a physical challenge.

After losing in the fourth round of the 2010 Australian Open, del Potro didn't play again until a couple of matches in Asia in the fall, after undergoing surgery on his right wrist on May 4. He missed the opportunity to defend his U.S. Open title. By the end of the 2011 Australian Open, his ranking had fallen to No. 484 because of the time away and he had to make the long climb back.

He earned the ATP Tour's comeback player of the year award in 2011. A semi-final effort in the Dubai event in Feb. 2012 finally brought him back to the top 10.

Del Potro was only at somewhat full health for two years before recurring pain in his other wrist led him to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. last January. He played one doubles match at Indian Wells in March to test out the effects of therapy, and had the surgery a few weeks later.

This week, he dropped out of the top 10 for the first time since May, 2012. But del Potro has only second-round points to defend in New York, so the postponement of his return shouldn't hurt his ranking too badly in the short term.

He does have 1,600 ranking points to defend in the fall, after titles in Basel and Tokyo and a final at the Masters 1000 in Shanghai a year ago.

Nadal went on a 17-match blitz through Canada, Cincinnati and the U.S. Open a year ago, winning all three. He already has failed to defend 2,000 points earned in the first two events; missing the U.S. Open would add 2,000 more to that total.