Thursday January 17, 2013
Men’s draw struggling to ignite without popular Nadal
RAFAEL Nadal was taking nothing for granted. Asked at last year’s French Open if he expected injury to derail his career, the 11-time major champion replied: “It’s impossible to predict the future, no?”
If the Spaniard seemed unnecessarily pessimistic, subsequent events have borne him out.
After winning his seventh title at Roland Garros, Nadal played only four more matches in 2012: two at Halle, and two at Wimbledon. Since his shock second-round loss to Lukas Rosol at The All England Club in June, he has been unsighted.
With his comeback from his knee injury now set for Feb 11 at San Paolo, Brazil, Nadal’s return to the tour cannot come quickly enough.
“Never would I think that Wimbledon was going to be the last time we see him for so long,” Rosol said at the Australian Open.
Nadal will be welcomed with equal fervour by peers, fans and tournament directors. Without the respected, entertaining and popular Nadal, the men’s draw at Melbourne Park is struggling to ignite in his absence.
“I think he was 100% healthy the day I played him,” Rosol said. “Something happened after that. I still just try to concentrate on myself. I don’t really miss him, you know?”
Rosol is in the minority. Elsewhere, Nadal is sorely missed, including at the Australian Open, where the top half of the draw is lopsided without him.
While 17-time major champion Roger Federer and US Open conqueror Andy Murray are on a collision course for the semi-finals, world number one Novak Djokovic’s section is a black hole by comparison.
Spain’s David Ferrer is the fourth seed in Nadal’s absence and for all his hard-working attributes, the 30-year-old is less than a major drawcard for the public.
Yesterday, when Nadal would normally have been a headline act on Rod Laver Arena, organisers were left scrambling for feature matches, settling on fifth-seeded Czech Tomas Berdych versus Frenchman Guillaume Rufin.
“It is definitely a loss for the tournament, for tennis, for sport in general,” Djokovic acknowledged. — AFP