Which top player will miss Rafael Nadal the least at the US Open?

Chris Chase
Busted Racquet

Rafael Nadal isn't playing the US Open and his top competitors all expressed similar disappointment at the absence of their fierce rival. While we believe the sentiment expressed by Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, we can't help but think that they weren't all that broken up by the news.

Nobody wants a fellow player to get hurt under any circumstance (unless said player has a name that rhymes with Rain Snowmesnik), of course. And the spirit of competition that exists in all athletes -- especially this special group that currently reigns over tennis -- makes them want to beat the best on the biggest stage. But deep, deep down there has to be a sigh of relief that, hey, that's one less big gun to worry about.

We examined each of the remaining Big Four's "we miss Rafa" quotes and guessed at their mindset to determine: Who's the most excited about Rafael Nadal not playing the US Open?:

Roger Federer: "It's not a surprise, because I wrote him and he told me like it wasn't looking good at all. I kind of knew. Saw it coming. But 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. [...] I hope in hindsight this is a very smart decision by him.  But it's obviously a big blow and disappointing news for the tennis world."

Despite a handful of years where it appeared they'd be on a collision course for the final, Federer and Nadal have never played at the US Open. Thus, the odds alone say The Fed wouldn't have been worried about Nadal's presence too much. But with Federer locked into the No. 1 or No. 2 seed, there was a chance he'd have faced Nadal in the semis. (Bonus: How Federer are Federer's quotes?)

Crocodile tear ranking: No. 2

Novak Djokovic: "He's a great competitor, and he's somebody I know really well on and off the court.  I'm sure that if he was able to perform in the US Open he would come. So I wish him a quick recovery. The fact is that tennis is going to lose a little bit because of Rafa not being there and playing, because he's somebody that has made a history of this sport.  We all know how good he is and how popular he is. There is everybody else except him who is going to play there, so I am sure we will have a good tournament."

[Related: Rafael Nadal withdraws from U.S. Open with knee injuries]

With Nadal's injury, David Ferrer moves up to become the No. 4 seed. This means either Federer or Djokovic could face Ferrer in the semifinals, while the other would see Andy Murray. This makes next week's draws one of the most important in recent Grand Slam memory. One of these guys could have a cakewalk to the final.

That being said, Djokovic lost to Nadal in the 2010 final and beat him in the 2011 final. His recent dominance in a depleted Toronto field notwithstanding, Djokovic's 2012 has been solid, if unspectacular. Solid could get him to a final, no problem.

Crocodile tear meter: No. 1

Andy Murray: "Obviously a shame. I like Rafa a lot as a friend.  I'm disappointed for him. But I think for tennis and also a 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. So 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."

The Scotsman defeated Djokovic and Federer to win the gold medal at the Olympics. The only scalp missing in his magical summer was Nadal's. Not that he'll mind too much. Murray wouldn't have seen Nadal until the finals any way. Given Rafa's recent play, it's unlikely he'd have made it that far.

Crocodile tear meter: No. 3

Racquet clap to Tennis.com for the quotes

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