Novak Djokovic’s bid to complete the first calendar Grand Slam in men’s singles since Rod Laver in 1969 will be aided by the fact that long-time rival Rafael Nadal announced on Friday that he would end his 2021 season early due to a left foot problem that has plagued him for a year, ruling him out of the upcoming US Open.
Roger Federer, the final member of the modern tennis trinity, has also withdrawn from the year’s final — and, of course, the rest of the season — due to the need for fourth knee surgery. Due to a wrist injury, Austrian Dominic Thiem, last year’s US Open champion, will also miss the Flushing Meadows extravaganza, which runs from August 30 to September 12.
On Friday, Nadal tweeted, “I needed to inform you that I, inappropriately, have to end the 2021 season.“
The issue resurfaced at the French Open, where he lost in the semi-finals to eventual champion Novak Djokovic.
“My foot has been bothering me more than it should for the past year, and I need to take some time… to find a solution to this problem or at least enhance it so that I may continue to have alternatives for the next several years.
“I’m ready to do whatever it takes to get back in the best shape possible so that I can last competing for the things that truly motivate me.
My foot has been bothering me more than it should for the past year, and I need to take some time… to find a solution to this problem or at least enhance it so that I may continue to have alternatives for the next several years.
“I needed to talk with my family, my team, and especially my doctors to figure out what was going on. However, the foot is not in the proper position today, and I could not practice during the previous year.
And get myself ready the way I need to. So we had to make that decision, but I am confident that I will fully recover and fight for the most important things once more.
I’m sure that, with the foot’s healing and a lot of daily effort, this can be done. This is something I am committed to doing my best to make a reality.”
Nadal, who has won the US Open four times, last won the singles title in New York in 2019. He overcame Daniil Medvedev in a five-set classic before breaking down in tears courtside in his chair as he watched a video commemorating his career.
However, last year, when the US Open was played without spectators and with substantial health restrictions due to the coronavirus outbreak, Nadal decided not to defend his championship.
Nadal did not compete at Wimbledon or the Tokyo Olympics this year after losing in the semi-finals of the French Open due to a foot injury. He returned to competition in Washington this month, but his movement was hampered by the damage, as he beat Jack Sock in the first round before losing to Lloyd Harris in the second.
Nadal flew to Toronto but withdrew from the Masters 1000 tournament there, returning to Spain to consider his options.
Long-time rivals Nadal, Federer, and Djokovic have shared the men’s record of 20 Grand Slam singles titles. If Djokovic can recover from the shoulder injury that forced him to quit the bronze medal mixed doubles match at the Olympics in Tokyo, he will be the overwhelming favorite to win his 21st title.
This year, Djokovic has won the Australian Open, the French Open, and Wimbledon, the first three legs of the Grand Slam.
While he is not playing tennis, Nadal may enjoy his second favorite sport, golf. According to tennisworldusa.org, the Spaniard entered the 2021 Balearic Golf Championship in the semi-amateur group, which begins this weekend in Mallorca and concludes seven days before the US Open.