The ATP tour is cracking down on player withdrawals from major events, but one of tennis’ largest draws internationally is out of their control, as shown by Rafael Nadal’s Tuesday withdrawal from Davis Cup.
Nadal pulled out of the U.S. vs. Spain meeting to follow a week after the completion of the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami — the event he is in the midst of playing, even though his “foot injury” apparently won’t let him compete against the U.S.
“Obviously, he’s not hurt,” said U.S. Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe, speaking to ESPN. “It doesn’t fit into his schedule. You can sit there and knock Nadal and knock [Roger] Federer all you want, but you’re putting these guys in a position where they have to make difficult decisions.”
McEnroe attributes Nadal’s decision to wanting a break before the claycourt season starts, another knock on the Davis Cup competition which has seen stars duck out to concentrate on tournament play, and the governing International Tennis Federation contemplate awarding ranking points for Davis Cup play to keep the top players interested.
“Our guys have always committed,” McEnroe said. “They make the time in their schedule to do it. They’ve played on clay in Russia and Belgium the last two years the week after the U.S. Open. You have to give credit to Andy Roddick. He’s missed one match in the seven years I’ve been captain, and he was legitimately injured.”
Nadal’s pull-out was a shocker for Roddick, who was the underdog going into the match against the Spaniard who shellacked him in their last meeting at Indian Wells.
“Personally, I don’t know if you can play Davis Cup at your convenience,” Roddick said. “I think it’s a year-long commitment. I don’t know, that’s surprising to me to say the least.”
Nadal didn’t want to “cheat his fans” by playing the Davis Cup injured, but apparently has no problem coming up short for Miami fans — and since when does a player with an injury that is anywhere near serious enough to pull from a competition keep playing on it, especially on the eve of his favorite claycourt campaign?
“I couldn’t go without being 100 percent fit, because it would be cheating the fans and my team mates,” Nadal told Spanish media. “It’s different to play for myself in a tournament like this one here in Miami where it is only me who wins or loses. But in the Davis Cup I play for my country and I couldn’t risk not being in top form.”
Too bad a tennis commissioner can’t step in and yank him out of there, saying “You’re too hurt to play Davis Cup Rafa? Then guess what, you’re out of Miami.”
As the men’s tour gets their calendar in order for 2009-10, perhaps they can also bring some sense to the Davis Cup/Grand Slam/ATP triumvirate, appointing an overall board (not as good) or president (better) that can step in and penalize players who work the system to the detriment of the sport. For further opinion, ask the fan who has paid for the weekend ticket for the U.S. vs. Spain Davis Cup to see Roddick vs. Nadal as the highlight, rather than Roddick vs. non-marquee-Spaniard.
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