After Spain’s Rafael Nadal withdrew from the Olympics because of a chronic recurring knee injury, there was always a chance he wouldn’t be ready to play in the Rogers Cup either, which is set to begin in Toronto next week.
The other shoe dropped with a thud Thursday.
Tennis Canada announced that the popular Nadal, the No. 3 player in the world, would miss the event for the first time since he made his Rogers Cup debut in 2004. Nadal is a two-time winner - in 2005 and 2008 - but lost in the opening round last year to Croatia’s Ivan Dodig.
In a statement, Nadal said that the injury, which required two MRIs at Wimbledon and forced him to cancel a lucrative pre-Olympic exhibition against Novak Djokovic, would keep him out of action for Toronto, a tournament he described as “one of the highlights of my season, so I'm very disappointed that I can't play there this year.
“I was planning on coming to Toronto and did everything I could to be ready but I still need some more time to recover."
Nadal hasn’t played since losing a first-round match to the Czech Republic’s Lukas Rosol at Wimbledon back in June. He had previously won a gold medal for Spain at the 2008 Olympics and had been named the team’s flag bearer for London, but determined about a week before the event began that he wasn’t fit enough to compete.
Nadal called that decision “one of the saddest days” of his career.
This was also a sad day for Rogers Cup tournament director Karl Hale, who lost a player who’d been featured prominently in the marketing of the event.
"We're obviously disappointed that he won't be in Toronto this year,” said Hale, “but we wish him a speedy recovery so he can return to the Tour as soon as possible."
Originally, every men’s player ranked in the top 35 in the world had entered the Rogers Cup in Toronto, but three other prominent players in addition to Nadal have also withdrawn: Fellow Spaniards David Ferrer and Fernando Verdasco, plus Frenchman Gael Monfils.
Ferrer is ranked No. 5 in the world, Verdasco 18 and Monfils 19. Both Ferrer and Verdasco were previously eliminated in the Olympic men’s tournament, which is down to the semi-finals, with Djokovic playing Andy Murray in one half of the draw, Roger Federer taking on Juan Del Potro in the other half. All four are still entered in Toronto, where the tournament format was changed this year, in the hopes of minimizing any potential withdrawals stemming from Olympic participation.
The men’s and women’s fields were both reduced to 48 players from 56, with the top 16 seeds all receiving first-round byes. Main draw action in Montreal, which features the women’s draw this year, is scheduled to start one day later than usual, next Tuesday, with the women’s final taking place the following Monday night. An evening final is also scheduled in Toronto for the first time ever.
In addition to Canada’s rising star Milos Raonic, who is ranked No. 23 in the world and thus receives automatic entry into the tournament, three other Canadian men - Frank Dancevic (Niagara Falls, Ont.), Peter Polansky (Thornhill, Ont.), and Vasek Pospisil (Vancouver) - have all received wild card entries into the main draw of the event, an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament.
In addition, four other Canadian players were given wild card entries into the qualifying tournament - Erik Chvojka (Montreal), Steven Diez (Toronto), Pierre-Ludovic Duclos (Sainte-Foy, Que.) and Filip Peliwo (North Vancouver), the reigning Wimbledon junior champion.
Chvojka and Duclos have each previously made one main draw appearance at Rogers Cup, while both Diez and Peliwo have yet to play in the tournament’s main draw.