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Nine-time champion Rafael Nadal withdraws from French Open

AP Photo/Michel Euler
AP Photo/Michel Euler

The King of Clay will not have an opportunity to claim back his throne this year. Rafael Nadal was forced to withdraw from the French Open on Friday with a wrist injury.

Ardent tennis watchers know Nadal has played with a wrist brace for much of this season, which turned around in the spring with a semifinal in Indian Wells and then titles in Monte-Carlo and Barcelona, his ninth at both events. However, he said in an emergency press conference that this wrist injury is different, having sustained it in Madrid, a match he went on to win.

Believing it to be an issue with the sheath of his left wrist tendon, Nadal said it will not require surgery as of now, but that he played his second round match with a painkilling injection and doctors told him that playing five more matches in pursuit of his 10th French Open and 15th Grand Slam would have been impossible and likely caused surgery to be necessary.

Nadal has sustained the most injuries of the “Big Four,” having to skip multiple majors in the last decade, including titles defenses at Wimbledon in 2009 and the U.S. Open in 2014. This one may be the most disappointing of all though, as he was back in championship form, having won his two opening matches in record time.

As a result, it would now be one of the greatest shocks in tennis history if Novak Djokovic is not playing in his fourth final in pursuit of his first Roland Garros title a week from Sunday. With Nadal out, veteran Marcel Granollers continues his good luck this season, receiving a walkover into the round of 16, while Dominic Thiem now becomes the favorite to reach his first Grand Slam quarterfinal.

Nadal, who will turn 30 a week from today, has approximately a month before Wimbledon starts, which is on the longer end of the expected timetable for the wrist to heal. It could be healed in two weeks, should be healed in a month and absolute worst case scenario is three months. That worst case scenario would jeopardize his participation in the Rio Olympics, for which he was named as Spain’s flag-bearer, a huge honor he was denied in 2012 after having to pull out of London due to a knee injury.

Seen wiping tears as journalists exited, the always gracious Nadal, now 72-2 career at Roland Garros, called it “one of the toughest press conferences of my career,” but added, “Now is a tough moment. But it’s not the end.”

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