With Rafael Nadal adding yet another injury to an increasingly lengthy list that spans multiple seasons, it's time for the 28-year-old to reassess what he can actually put his body through.
Is it Grand Slams or ATP Tour titles he wants?
A right wrist injury suffered in training last week means the Spaniard faces a tough task to be fit to defend his title at the U.S. Open, which begins on Aug. 25, and he has already been forced to pull out of two warm-up events in the lead-up to Flushing Meadows.
While Nadal hopes to make it to the U.S. Open and is back in training with a wrist support—as revealed on his Facebook page—he will not be able to defend his title at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, or his Western and Southern Open crown in Cincinnati.
|ATP Tour Schedule: Key Events|
|U.S. Open||Aug. 25||New York, USA||Hard|
|Shanghai Masters||Oct. 5||Shanghai, China||Hard|
|Paris Masters||Oct. 27||Paris, France||Hard|
However, his enforced absence from two of the ATP Tour's mandatory nine tournaments may not be a bad thing.
In fact, as a player who has suffered elbow, ankle, foot, shoulder, knee and back injuries throughout his career he might actually be best served ditching the rigours and travelling of the ATP Tour altogether.
After all, he has not played since his shocking defeat to Australian teenager Nick Kyrgios in the fourth round of Wimbledon four weeks ago anyway, and the seven months he spent on the sidelines during the 2012-13 season with a knee injury actually proved beneficial in keeping him fresh.
He enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career and went on to claim a record eighth French Open title and the U.S. Open crown he is hoping to defend later this month.
It seems clear that his body is telling him to slow down. It's better to miss tournaments by choice than through injury.
With only two mandatory ATP tournaments remaining after the U.S. Open—The Shanghai Masters, which begins on Oct. 5, and the Paris Masters, on Oct. 27—Nadal might be best served by resting up until the Australian Open comes around in January next year.
Nadal has never won either of the Paris or Shanghai hard-court tournaments and has only made the final once—losing in Paris to Argentina's David Nalbandian in 2007.
The ATP Tour will only hold defeat, or worse injury, for Nadal and it would be best to skip it.
As it stands, Nadal will no doubt want to compete hard to close out the year, and will play at the U.S. Open and both mandatory ATP Masters events. But coming off yet another injury, it is hard to see him doing any better than last year in the latter two, when he exited in the semi-finals of both competitions. A repeat is probably the best his fans can expect.
Given the effort Nadal is making to be fit for the start of the U.S. Open, it’s likely he will turn out for the event, but unlikely that he will go the distance and defend his title. A wrist injury is not something an elite player like Nadal can hide on the tennis court, and given the high intensity with which the Spaniard plays the game, he is likely to break down and be forced to retire in the early rounds.
As a player who has won 14 Grand Slam titles during one of the toughest eras of men’s tennis and is already ranked among the best players to ever grace the game, there is no need to take risks. If Nadal can concentrate on key titles, then his career can go on for years. His body is telling him he can't play the whole ATP season.
U.S. Open Prediction: Will withdraw in third round due to wrist
Shanghai Masters Prediction: Nadal loses in semi-finals
Paris Masters Prediction: Nadal loses in semi-finals
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