"Guard is changing, it's a matter of who's going to take it" - Frances Tiafoe on absence of Rafael Nadal, Federer and Djokovic in Toronto

Frances Tiafoe and Rafael Nadal at the 2019 Mutua Madrid Open
Frances Tiafoe and Rafael Nadal at the 2019 Mutua Madrid Open

Rafael Nadal pulled out of the National Bank Open on Tuesday, citing a chronic left foot problem that has flared up in recent months. Nadal announced his decision hours ahead of his second-round clash against Lloyd Harris.

Nadal's withdrawal means the National Bank Open in Toronto will not feature the three heavyweights in men's tennis, as Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic pulled out before the event began.

In that context, Frances Tiafoe was asked to give his thoughts on the Big 3's absence. The American reckons their absence is a "good look" for younger players in the field as it gives them a better shot at an elusive Masters 1000 title.

"It's a good look, right?," Tiafoe said during his press conference after beating Yoshihito Nishioka. "Obviously you never want to see that, but, I mean, the guard is going to change soon. Obviously these guys, time is of essence now obviously."

Tiafoe's words seem to have some truth to them as this will be the first time since 2009 that none of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic will play in the final in Toronto.

Rafael Nadal is a five-time champion at the Canadian Open
Rafael Nadal is a five-time champion at the Canadian Open

In fact, the legendary trio have won the title at the National Bank Open a whopping 11 times in the last 16 editions, highlighting their dominance at the event.

But Frances Tiafoe believes a change at the top of men's tennis is already taking place, with the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Daniil Medvedev, and Alexander Zverev taking giant strides.

"You already see Tsitsipas playing great, Medvedev obviously been doing his thing, Zverev winning the Olympics," said Tiafoe. "The guard is definitely changing. It's a matter of who's going to take it. It's going to be an open field a little bit."

Tiafoe pointed out that a shift in power is "good" for the sport as it brings new faces and playing styles to the fore. The American insisted that the title at the National Bank Open is there for the taking following the withdrawal of defending champion Nadal.

"I think it's good for the sport," Tiafoe added. "See some new faces, kind of have the game, you know, new personalities, new changing of the guard. We'll see who takes it. I think it's an open field. Anybody can put it together, honestly."

The American reckons the National Bank Open field is well balanced and there is no outright favorite for the title. Tiafoe brought up the example of him beating Stefanos Tsitsipas in Wimbledon to highlight his point that any player can defeat another on a given day.

"There is a lot of good players but nobody who is so great that can't be beaten, right, out of this crop," said Tiafoe. "Me beating Stefanos at Wimbledon, depth of tennis, a lot of guys can play well on any given day."

Rafael Nadal will likely miss the Canada-Cincinnati double for the first time since 2014

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal's chronic foot problem has not only forced him to pull out of the Canadian Open (Toronto Masters) but has also cast some doubt on his participation at the Cincinnati Masters, which is due to begin on 15 August.

If he misses the American Masters 1000 event, Rafael Nadal will not be seen in action in the Canada-Cincinnati double for the third time in his career and the first since 2014 (wrist injury).

Nadal did not play in either of the events in 2020, but that was due to the fact the Canadian Open was not held.

Edited by Arvind Sriram
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