Weekly Slice: Nadal's absence creates ripple effect


Rafael Nadal's stomach strain has put his season on lockdown for now, and his absence is having a similar effect on the men's tour.

Nadal will be out of action for a few weeks while he recovers from the abdominal issue he suffered before and during the U.S. Open.

Yet the ripple effect of his absence is having a serious impact on the remainder of the 2009 campaign. Multiple sources in Europe confirmed Nadal's layoff was a major factor behind Roger Federer's decision to skip two forthcoming events in Asia.

Furthermore, Federer is now expected to play only sparingly ahead of the World Tour finals in November. The Swiss master still regards Nadal as his fiercest challenger, and doesn't want his rival to have an advantage of freshness over him heading into next year's Australian Open.

Federer already has received some criticism in Asia for his withdrawal, but it's hard to fault his logic. This approach means he still can have a clear lead as world No. 1 heading into 2010. He also will have plenty of gas in the tank as he tries to wrest away Nadal's Australian crown.

With their places at the Tour finals already assured, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro also are likely to pare down some of their tournament commitments over the next few weeks.

Players ranked from six through 12 still are slugging it out for Tour finals spots, but in reality, this season feels near completion.

Drop shot

The start of the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo resembled a U.S. Open-style women's bloodbath with Dinara Safina, Venus Williams and Svetlana Kuznetsova all bowing out against lower-ranked players in their opening matches. Safina was knocked out by 132nd-ranked Taiwanese qualifier Chang Kai-chen, but the question must be asked -- is any Safina defeat really an upset anymore?

Clean winner

Kimiko Date Krumm's victory in the Hansol Korea Open last week was the latest heart-warming chapter in the Japanese veteran's return to pro tennis. Date Krumm beat Anabel Medina Garrigues in the final on the eve of her 39th birthday and becomes the oldest WTA event winner since Billie Jean King. Her most recent victory before last weekend -- August 1996, in San Diego.

Use your frequent flyer miles

Get yourself to Kuala Lumpur this week for the Malaysian Open, which is the newest addition to the Asian swing of the ATP Tour. There's a strong field hoping to win the inaugural event with Nikolay Davydenko, Fernando Verdasco, Robin Soderling and Fernando Gonzalez competing in the event. Be sure to check out the spectacular Petronas Towers in downtown KL -- a magnificent example of ultra-modern architecture.

Last week's results

BCR Open Romania, Bucharest: Albert Montanes

Open de Moselle, Metz: Gael Monfils

Hansol Korea Open, Seoul: Kimiko Date Krumm

Tashkent Open, Uzbekistan: Shahar Peer

This week's predictions

PTT Thailand Open, Bangkok: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga

Proton Malaysian Open, Kuala Lumpur: Robin Soderling

Toray Pan Pacific Open, Tokyo: Caroline Wozniacki

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