In a mild surprise, Rafael Nadal announced today that he will not be playing the final week of the ATP’s “regular season” at the Paris Tennis Masters because of an abrupt shoulder issue.
“I cannot play because of a tendinitis in the left shoulder,” Nadal said. “I need to rest for six or seven days. It is nothing to be worried about but the doctor told me I have to spend those days doing intensive treatment and functional rehabilitation with physiotherapy. I’m very sorry for the tournament organizers, who’ve always treated me in a very special way, and especially sorry for all my fans in France and in Paris that I won’t be able to be with them in one of my favorite cities in the world.”
Nadal’s had a few weeks of rest since his Asian swing during which he reported no issues with the shoulder – though, perhaps this ailment stems from his amped-up serve? And while shoulder issues in tennis can become very serious I’m guessing this is more of a preventive measure, so that’s why I label Rafa’s withdrawal as “mild”.
With Nadal’s enormous ranking lead there’s not much to play for in Paris. He has the No. 1 ranking comfortably in the bag. He’s pocketed plenty of cash already this year and despite few issues with his knees of late, he has to be ever-mindful of overplaying and re-aggravating those knees again.
Regardless, I think it’s a good move for Nadal but once again the Paris tournament is snakebit with the loss of a another star.
As for the draw, it’s still a good one with Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Robin Soderling and Andy Roddick. But with No. 1 settled and the London Top 8 virtually sewn up with Roddick and Ferrer almost locked into the final two spots, it’s hard to find interesting storylines for next week’s event. And that said, it’s going to be hard if not conflicting for some players to find the motivation.
For the London 8, it’s a question of maximizing their efforts with the slight risk of damaging their Finals chances or heed conservation. And for the non London 8, after a long, draining season how much do they really have left in the tank for this final week push?
So as always in these final weeks, look for some surprises and some upsets. But with that comes a lot of opportunity for the lower ranked guys to end 2010 with a bang!
Early on, however, Federer should be immune to any upset bug. The Swiss’ draw looks almost handpicked with a Frenchman in either Nicolas Mahut or Richard Gasquet in his opener, then perhaps another match with Radek Stepanek in the third round before Ferrer in the quarterfinals. Fed should get through to the semifinals, assuming he upholds his commitment and plays – remember he’s still in Basel with Roddick tomorrow and possibly Djokovic on Sunday and like Rafa there’s not much at stake in Paris.
In the second quarter, if 2008 Paris winner David Nalbandian can flip the switch and get back on track this section is great for him. Otherwise, I think Andy Murray or Gael Monfils should emerge. Buoyed by the crowd, Monfils, the runner-up last year, should cut through the tiring Fernando Verdasco and maybe even beat Murray who could already be looking ahead to London.
Roddick also has a great home in the third quarter. Andy’s been playing well this week in Basel – after a convincing win over Nalbandian today, he gets Federer Saturday – and I think that should carry over into Paris where he’ll open with vengeful mindset against either Xavier Malisse or Janko Tipsarevic. Then possibly Mikhail Youhzny before maybe Soderling. The Swede is arguably in the toughest little section with Ivan Ljubicic, Stan Wawrinka and Gilles Simon.
Djokovic, the defending champion, anchors the final quarter and his path could take him through Sam Querrey, then John Isner followed by former champion Nikolay Davydenko. Tomas Berdych also looms but the Czech has literally checked out of late.
Here’s the draw by quarterfinal seedings: 1 Federer v. 7 Ferrer, 3 Murray v. 6 Verdasco, 8 Roddick v. 4 Soderling, 5 Berdych v. 2 Djokovic.
The SFs: Federer v. Murray, Soderling v. Djokovic.
As for my pick, again given the situation of it being the last week for many players it’s hard to know who’ll give 100% and who won’t. I think the French players like Monfils, Simon and even Gasquet should feed off the energy from the crowd and play well. And that’s advantage Monfils. I also like Federer and Djokovic to have a good week. Their draws set up well. Murray, Nalbandian and even Soderling could have big runs as well.
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