Nadal Withdraws from U.S. Open; Won’t Defend Tournament Title

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Citing a wrist injury, defending U.S. Open champion Rafael Nadal announced that he won’t be competing in the 2014 iteration of the Grand Slam tournament. The tournament, which begins August 25 and concludes in early September, is the last of the four major tennis tournaments to take place this year and represented Nadal’s last chance to narrow the gap from his 14 Grand Slam victories to Roger Federer’s 17. Federer will be competing.

Nadal, who suffered the injury in July while practicing, had his wrist in a cast for the first two weeks of August, forcing him to miss competitions in Toronto and Ohio. He previously declined to defend his 2008 Wimbledon title when tendonitis in his knee kept him from the All England Club’s tournament. The last U.S. Open champion to forfeit a chance to win back-to-back tournaments was Juan Martin del Potro in 2010 — del Potro is also sitting out this year’s tournament after undergoing surgery on his left wrist in March.

Now 28, Rafa’s reputation is settling into a specialized niche. Beyond being one of the top five (depending on health) men’s tennis players in the world, he’s the best clay court player in the history of the sport, and he’s been injured often enough to no longer look like a lock to overtake Federer’s title victory, as he probably only has four or five years of high-level tennis left. This is a formidable legacy, to be sure, but it does seem a little underwhelming, as do all athletes who happen to be bit by the injury bug, regardless of sport.