Missing from action: Five champions out of US Open

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Rafael Nadal's decision to withdraw from the US Open means that the season's final Grand Slam event will be missing five players who have been champions in New York in 12 of the last 17 years.

AFP Sport looks at the missing men:

Rafael Nadal

-- The US Open champion in 2010, 2013, 2017 and 2019 announced Friday that a foot injury sustained in his French Open semi-final loss to Novak Djokovic in June needs more time to heal. As a result, the 35-year-old Spaniard said he was shutting down his season but was fully committed to returning in 2022.

"I am confident that I will recover 100 per cent and I will be able to fight again for the most important things," said Nadal.

"The injury is nothing new. It is the same injury that I have had since 2005. In that moment, the doctors were very negative about my future career, but I was able to have a career that I never dreamed about.

"So I am confident that my tennis and my mentality will be there again soon."

Roger Federer

-- Federer, who celebrated his 40th birthday on August 8, has also called time on his 2021 season to undergo a third surgery on his knee.

The Swiss star, like Nadal a 20-time major winner, was US Open champion for five successive seasons from 2004-2008.

"I want to give myself a glimmer of hope to return to the tour in some shape and form," said Federer.

"I am realistic, don't get me wrong. I know how difficult it is at my age to go through another surgery. I will try it. I want to be healthy. I want to be running around."

Federer, who played just 13 matches in 2021, underwent two knee surgeries in 2020 when he played only six times.

Juan Martin del Potro

-- Giant Argentine Del Potro was US Open winner in 2009 when he beat Federer in the final.

However, his career has stalled time after time since due a series of injuries and numerous visits to the operating theatre.

Del Potro underwent wrist surgery in 2010, 2014 and twice more in 2015. He has also endured right knee surgeries in 2019, twice in 2020 and again in March this year.

The former world number three is down at 749 in the rankings and hasn't played since the Queen's Club event on the eve of Wimbledon in 2019.

Stan Wawrinka

-- A three-time major winner, Wawrinka was US Open champion in 2016 when he beat Novak Djokovic in the final.

Now 36, Wawrinka underwent left foot surgeries in March and June this year. His last event was Doha in March.

Dominic Thiem

-- Thiem won his only major at the 2020 US Open with a five-set triumph over Alexander Zverev.

A wrist injury suffered in Mallorca this year meant the 27-year-old Austrian missed Wimbledon and the Tokyo Olympics.

This week, he too called a halt to his 2021 season.

"It has been a tough decision but I know this is what I have to do," he said.

"I have a long career ahead of me and it's important not to take risks and rush back."

....three champions are still lined-up for New York - Novak Djokovic, the winner in 2011, 2015 and 2018, the 2012 champion Andy Murray and Marin Cilic who lifted the trophy in 2014.

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