All good things come to an end – and in Rafael Nadal’s case, his early destructive form at this year’s French Open came to an abrupt halt today when he was forced to withdraw from the tournament with a nagging wrist injury.
— Betül Sarıkaya (@smallcandydamon) May 27, 2016
It’s safe to say that his fans were a little disappointed.
Rafa pulls out of Roland Garros w/ a wrist injury and I can’t recall ever being sadder about an injury report. Stunned.
— Chris Oddo (@TheFanChild) May 27, 2016
WHAT RAFA WHY
— Anna L (@anna_tennisfan) May 27, 2016
When you hear about Nadal’s withdrawal pic.twitter.com/PmtrnnbiMI
— WTA Reactions (@WTAreactions) May 27, 2016
In the wake of Roger Federer’s withdrawal from the tournament last week, Nadal’s announcement is another blow to the prestigious tournament as well as to the long-time devotees of the famed “Fedal” era of tennis.
But what are some of the implications of Nadal’s sudden exit from his most successful Grand Slam?
First and foremost, it’s not all bad news. Although he’s gone from the tournament, the walkover he gave to third round opponent Marcel Granollers affects neither his season record (27-8) nor his record at Roland Garros (72-2).
On the larger scale of his legacy in tennis, the Spaniard is still next-to-undefeated at the tournament, with his only losses coming to Robin Söderling in 2009 and to Novak Djokovic last year – with nine titles otherwise.
It can’t be fun to be Sam Groth or Facundo Bagnis right now. Not only did Nadal crush them in the first two rounds, but they got crushed by a guy with severe wrist pain.
While Groth has hardly played a clay court match in his career, Bagnis is a bit of a clay court expert – he’ll certainly rue being unable to take advantage of a (secretly) injured Nadal.
Nadal at the last four Slams: five wins, three losses, one withdrawal. His performance at the biggest events in the sport has been extremely disappointing by his legendary standards and his French Open withdrawal only adds to the malaise.
Wrist injuries are tricky and while it wouldn’t be surprising to see Nadal completely skip the grass court season – and potentially Wimbledon – he has plenty of ground to gain at the last two majors of the season. Despite an extremely low point total from the Slams, he’s still ranked in the world’s Top 5 and a strong showing during the summer hard court swing (including Rogers Cup!) with a rejuvenated wrist might catalyze a late-2016 surge in the rankings.
Rafa came back from injury in 2013 and returned to No.1 in the world, who says he can’t do that again?
Nadal’s wrist might have taken him out of the tournament, but before that it blessed us with this insane hot shot.
— Roland Garros (@rolandgarros) May 24, 2016
It’s bad news for tennis fans but good news for players on Nadal’s side of the draw who now have an huge opportunity to make it deep in the tournament.
First and foremost, Marcel Granollers avoids arguably the most difficult task in tennis: beating Rafa in a best-of-five set match on clay – he’s into the fourth round here for the second time… without even stepping on court. Dominic Thiem, who has posted some excellent results on clay this year, will also be counting his blessings if he can get past his buddy Alexander Zverev in the third round. The talented and flashy Austrian will like his chances to make the quarterfinals of a Slam for the first time.
Elsewhere, home hope Jo-Wilfried Tsonga’s path to the final four also got slightly lighter – although he’ll still have to make it through the likes of Gulbis and potentially David Goffin, two players who now also have conceivable shots at a semifinal berth.
Oh yeah, and Novak Djokovic. Given his already light draw, he has always seemed like a lock-in for the semifinals, but with Nadal out of the picture his path to the final now appears just as clear. Could a rematch of last year’s final be in the cards?