A US Open And No Nadal

By now, globally, anyone even remotely interested in tennis is aware that Rafael Nadal, the 2010 US Open champion, will not participate in the upcoming 2012 championship.

Again, Nadal’s illustrious career is being interrupted by a flareup of tendinitis in the knee.

So damn unfortunate.

While his absence obviously bodes well for the chances of the top three men as well as several others on the cusp of breaking through to a higher level, it’s an awful blow for professional tennis in general. Nadal’s mere presence in the draw adds so much additional intrigue.

Without exception, no player gives any greater effort on every point of every game of every set of every match that he plays than does Nadal. He plays every point as though it was the most vital one of the match. That’s what makes him such a formidable opponent.

The news that Nadal would be unable to defend his 2008 Olympic gold medal win in the 2012 games was a distressing signal, one that could not be ignored. After all, not only was he defending champion, but he had been selected to be flag bearer for Spain, an honor about which he had expressed considerable excitement and anticipation.

With so much on the line, a herd of wild horses couldn’t have dragged Nadal to the sideline.

But inflammation can trump just about anything for an athlete, even the wild horses thing.

I hoped his recovery would be swift but, realistically, expected the most recent announcement that he would be unable to play in the final slam of 2012.

He couldn’t conceivably be ready to compete at the highest level having not played a match since his second round loss at Wimbledon to Lukas Rosol.

To be honest, I think the Rosol match is what triggered Nadal’s subsequent physical problems.

Rosol played like a man possessed. He played the match of his career, a match off the charts. The guy was simply in “the zone.” His thoroughly dominate performance seemed almost surreal.

Nadal fought with every fiber of his being but couldn’t counter Rosol’s ruthless onslaught. Still he battled on relentlessly, possibly, no, quite probably to his own physical detriment.

That’s just Nadal, always gives his all.

Given Federer’s Wimbledon win along with his return to the number one ranking, and singles silver medal win in the Olympics, his first in singles (he and Wawrinka won doubles gold in 2008), he must be considered a strong candidate to garner his 18th singles slam victory.

During the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Ohio, one of the final preps for  the US Open, on Tuesday, August 14th, Federer was scheduled for a 30 minute practice session at 5:00 pm. Many fans deserted matches already in progress just to get an eyeful of “The Fed” practicing.

There was such a throng of oglers that a fleeting glimpse was about all you could get. Fortunately, I’m tall and managed to get some video holding my camera above the many craning, swiveling noggins in front of me.

I can tell you this without equivocation, “the maestro” was definitely “gettn his swagger on.”

With glassy-eyed transfixed gazes, gaggles of giggling women pointed and fanned themselves. Mock swooning occurred at one point when “The Fed” removed his cap, ran one hand through his carefully brushed back hair, casually sauntered to a bench and donned one of his famous Nike bandanas to hold back the strategically loosened unruly locks.

Oh yeah, he’s in fine form, knows it, and plays it to the max.

If during a rally he netted a ball, he’d casually glance down at the spot where the ball landed prior to him striking it as though it must surely have hit a miniscule piece of debris causing him to miss.

A good show enjoyed by all including me.

Of those I saw, Murray, Ferrer, Cilic, Raonic and Del Potro had very good practices.

Murray was particularly impressive while striking the ball very crisply off both sides. I didn’t see Lendl which causes me to think Murray may not extend himself here after having just won Olympic gold. I rather think he will preserve his body for a major push in the Open.

Nadal will be missed but “the show must go on.” His absence certainly changes the dynamic of the tournament. Still, given all that has transpired throughout the year, the final slam of 2012 should be fascinating to say the least.

There has been a clear shift at the top. And beneath that thin layer are players with breakthrough potential salivating at the possibility that this may be their time and New York may be their place to have a career defining two-week run.

US Open 2012. As with every major played this year, the potential for more significant tennis history being made is almost guaranteed.

See you there.

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