Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal from the US Open has stirred up several debates and questions, both for the Spaniard and for the tournament itself. While Nadal's reasons - which revolve around health and safety - are entirely justifiable, many have wondered if his participation would have given a much-needed boost to the New York Slam and to tennis itself.
Jim Courier, however, has come to the defense of Rafael Nadal by asserting that the Spaniard would have definitely taken part if the ATP schedule hadn’t been as ‘compressed’ as it is now.
In a recent interview with Mad Dog Radio channel, the former World No. 1 spoke at length about Rafael Nadal’s decision-making with regard to the US Open. Courier also surmised that the Mallorcan was prioritizing the French Open over other tournaments - as he would be expected to win an unprecedented 13th title there.
Rafael Nadal’s decision is understandable: Jim Courier
Rafael Nadal was the second high-profile name to pull out of the men’s draw after his rival Roger Federer withdrew due to injury. Having won at Flushing Meadows in 2019, Nadal was tipped as one of the favorites this year too. Another title would have taken him at par with Federer’s tally of 20 Major, and would have also helped in his quest to end the year ranked World No. 1.
But when the new ATP ranking system came into play, Nadal had the luxury to choose between the US Open and French Open as he wouldn’t need to defend any points won from last year. The other major factor that swayed his decision was the cramped schedule, which sees the Cincinnati Masters, US Open, Rome Masters and the French Open all squeezed into a space of eight weeks.
Jim Courier cited the unfriendly schedule as the primary reason for Nadal’s decision to pull out.
“Look we would love to see him here, I’m not gonna be diplomatic about this," Courier said. "I mean as the defending champion you wanna see him there. But it's understandable given how they have had to compress the season and put the French Open now just a couple weeks after this Cincinnati-US Open series."
Jim Courier further talked about about how Rafael Nadal has endured a lot of physical wear and tear after playing on hardcourts in the past. Courier believes the World No. 2 was more interested in the prospect of winning a 13th French Open title than a fifth US Open, and so gave himself the ‘best chance’ to do so.
“With a player who’s had a history of having physical problems and breaking down after playing on hard-courts, I think it’s pretty easy to put yourself in his shoes and say 'listen, he’s going for his 13th Roland Garros title.' He wants to give himself the best chance to do that,” Courier continued.
Interestingly, the American also believes that Rafael Nadal would have opted for both Grand Slams had the French Open taken place before the event in New York. Courier even implied that Nadal wasn’t too concerned about the COVID-19 situation, but instead about the effect of the rigorous schedule on his body.
“I think if Roland Garros had been in front of the US Open he would have undoubtedly played the US Open but I just think this is a function of the season getting compressed into a very short pocket and him being cautious," Courier said. "I don’t think his concern is remotely virus-related, it’s his physical ability to withstand the rigors of this restart having not played a tournament now since February.”
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