Defending U.S. Open champion Rafael Nadal, still rehabilitating a wrist injured in practice three weeks ago, withdrew Monday from this year's tournament, the second time in three years he will miss New York's Grand Slam event because of injury.
The Open will begin its two-week run Monday, and Nadal -- who pulled out of this month's Open tuneup events in Toronto and Mason, Ohio -- announced that he "won't be able to play . . . I am sure you understand that it is a very tough moment for me, since it is a tournament I love and where I have great memories from the fans, the night matches, so many things . . . "
Nadal was injured during training at his home on the Spanish island of Mallorca on July 29 and required a cast on his right wrist for more than two weeks. He plays lefthanded but uses a two-handed backhand. In a statement released early yesterday, Nadal said, "Not much more I can do right now, other than accept the situation and, as always in my case, work hard in order to be able to compete at the highest level once I am back."
His last competitive match was a fourth-round loss at Wimbledon to 19-year-old Australian Nick Kyrgios, who turned pro only last year.
Nadal was forced to skip the 2012 Open during a seven-month absence from the pro tour because of chronic knee tendinitis. He returned from that setback with a flourish, winning 10 tournaments in 2013, including two Grand Slam events (French and U.S.) and 75 of 82 matches, finishing the year ranked No. 1.
Still only 28, Nadal has won 14 major tournament titles -- his most recent being June's French Open -- second in men's tennis history (along with retired Pete Sampras) to Roger Federer's 17. Nadal, who won his first Open title in 2010 and was runner-up in 2011, is only the seventh man to win each of the four Grand Slam tournaments.
Tennis observers regularly have wondered if Nadal's hard-driving physical game, based on relentless running and exhausting training, might be punishing Nadal as much as it hurts his opponents.
Knee trouble, in particular, has plagued him. It was knee tendinitis that kept Nadal, in 2009, from defending the first of his two Wimbledon championships.
In U.S. Open history, three other men did not defend their titles: Ken Rosewall in 1971, because of an ongoing conflict in the early days of open tennis between Rosewall's professional WCT organization and the international tennis federation; Sampras in 2003, as he retired after his 2002 title, and Martin del Potro in 2010, because of a wrist injury that required surgery.