Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic have expressed their concern for the future of Rafael Nadal after their great tennis rival pulled out of this month’s U.S. Open due to his ongoing knee problems.
The Spaniard withdrew from the season’s final grand slam event on Wednesday, when Federer began his preparations at the Cincinnati Masters with a 6-3 6-2 win over Russia’s Alex Bogomolov Jr.
“I wrote him and he told me it wasn’t looking good at all. I kind of knew,” world No. 1 Federer told reporters after setting up a third-round clash with Australian rising star Bernard Tomic.
“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. In particular 12 days before the Open you figure he might still have time to fix what he has to fix to get ready.
Former No. 1 Nadal won a record seventh French Open title in June after his customary busy clay season, but lost in the second round at Wimbledon and was unable to defend his Olympic singles title at London 2012.
“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,” said U.S. Open champion Djokovic, who began his Cincinnati campaign with a hard-fought 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 win over Andreas Seppi of Italy, having retained his Toronto Masters title on Sunday.
“We all know how good he is and how popular he is. Obviously it’s that serious that it takes him out from the tour for the last couple of months. I’m sure that if he was able to perform in the U.S .Open he would come.”
Nadal and Djokovic had contested four successive grand slam finals, a run that was broken at Wimbledon when Federer beat Andy Murray to join Pete Sampras on seven titles at the grass major and reclaim the top ranking from the Serb.
Djokovic, last year’s Cincinnati runner-up, is seeking to improve his form in his next match against Russian veteran Nikolay Davydenko.
Murray, who succeeded Nadal as the men’s Olympic champion after a revenge win over Federer at Wimbledon this month, also paid tribute to a player he has faced in five grand slam semifinals and two quarterfinals.
“I like Rafa a lot as a friend. I’m disappointed for him,” said the world No. 4, who beat American Sam Querrey 6-2 6-4 in his Cincinnati title defense opener, having pulled out in Toronto after his first match due to a knee worry of his own.
“It’s obviously tough for him. He’s had trouble with his knees in the past. So, you know, 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.”