Eleven-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal will miss this year's U.S. Open due to lingering knee problems. The Spanish great already missed the London Olympics and recently withdrew from this week's ATP Masters 1000 event in Cincinnati.
For fans of Nadal, this latest health issue brings back worries about Rafa's long-term durability. Nadal also missed significant time on tour in 2009 when he was unable to defend his Wimbledon crown from the previous year. Nadal lost in the Round of 16 at Roland Garros that year (his only loss in the French Open) and did not return to the ATP tour until August.
Nadal, who had already won five titles in 2009, did not win any more events after returning from injury, though he did make the finals of the Masters 1000 event in Shanghai. He also posted two wins in Spain's Davis Cup final against the Czech Republic.
As a fan, I take heart knowing that the following year, 2010, Nadal turned in one of the best seasons in modern tennis. He won three Grand Slam tournaments that year. After losing to Andy Murray in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, Nadal swept through the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. His triumph in the 2010 U.S. Open completed Nadal's career Grand Slam. Of course, Nadal is a couple years older and has endured the pounding of many more tournaments since then.
The joy in being a fan of Rafa Nadal is watching him grind for every point. He never takes a shot off, let alone a game, and it's very satisfying to watch a professional athlete produce that kind of effort every time out. Here is a player who has accomplished more than most who have ever played the game, and he is still putting maximum effort into every point of a game.
Following a win in his first match this year at Indian Wells, Nadal said he tries to fight on every ball and by running down every shot. It's this kind of effort that has won him so many loyal fans, ones that are obviously disappointed he will not be in New York this year.
The hope, of course, is that Nadal is being prudent and decided to withdraw to err on the side of caution. The fear is that the pounding his body has taken over his career is going to make it increasingly difficult for Nadal to compete at the highest levels of tennis.Brad Boeker has been a fan of professional tennis for over 30 years. He coaches high school tennis in Illinois.