Rafael Nadal withdraws from the Montreal tournament due to injury

Gregory Strong –

The youth will be served at the forthcoming National Bank Open after some late withdrawals rocked the draw at the ATP Tour’s Masters 1000 tournament.

The so-called Big Three Roger Federer (knee), Novak Djokovic (unvaccinated) and Rafael Nadal (stomach) will not be there this year.

Instead, the event’s headliners include 20-year-olds like senior Daniil Medvedev of Russia, Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, Italy’s Jannik Sinner and local favorite Felix Auger-Aliassime of Montreal.

“What’s so special this year is the caliber and level of the young players,” tournament director Eugene Lapierre said after Friday afternoon’s draw was completed. “We’ve been talking about the changing of the guard for a number of years. I think we’re there.”

Federer is still out of action after knee surgery. Nadal withdrew from the tournament on Friday, a day after Djokovic’s withdrawal was confirmed.

Djokovic is not vaccinated against COVID-19 and is not allowed to enter Canada. Nadal, meanwhile, is still recovering from a muscle tear that forced him to withdraw from Wimbledon last month.

“I’ve been training without serving for a while now and I started serving four days ago. Everything was going well. However, yesterday, after my normal training, I felt a slight irritation in my stomach and today it was still there,” said Nadal said in a statement. “Having spoken to my doctor, we prefer to take things conservatively and give it a few more days before we start competing.”

Nadal has won 22 Grand Slam singles titles over the course of his career, one more than Djokovic. The Spaniard should be No. 2 in Montreal behind Medvedev, who will compete under a neutral flag.

Teenage sensation Carlos Alcaraz of Spain instead finished second in a 56-man singles that includes notable players like Pole Hubert Hurkacz and Norway’s Casper Ruud.

“They’re kids and they’re just going to make tennis stories for the next 10 years,” Lapierre said. “So that’s what we’re going to see this year.”

Tsitsipas, who attended the draw at a downtown restaurant with Alcaraz, said the Tour’s youth movement is exciting and pushes him to work harder.

“It really helps with my mood in terms of how I approach my training and how I approach my preparation to achieve better goals,” he said. “I am a very capable athlete. I want to prove to others that I’m better than them.”

Ninth-placed Auger-Aliassime will get a bye in the first round while compatriot Denis Shapovalov has a tough opener against Alex de Minaur. In 21st place, the Australian is one position ahead of Shapovalov, who hails from Richmond Hill, Ontario.

Nadal’s withdrawal gave American Mackenzie McDonald a spot in the peloton.

“We are obviously disappointed that Rafael will not be with us this year,” said Lapierre. “As a five-time champion of our tournament and the last men’s champion in Montreal (2019), the fans were obviously excited to see him back in action at the IGA Stadium.”

Benjamin Bonzi of France and Australia’s Nick Kyrgios advanced to the main draw after the withdrawal of Djokovic of Serbia and Oscar Otte of Germany.

Kyrgios, who lost to Djokovic in the Wimbledon final, could face Medvedev in the second round. Medvedev has a bye in the first round as the top seed.

Vasek Pospisil of Vernon, BC will open against American Tommy Paul and Alexis Galarneau of Laval, Que. drew Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov. Both Canadians received wildcard entries along with Britain’s Andy Murray and Belgium’s David Goffin.

For the first time since 2019, the National Bank Open is full again this year. The field includes 41 of the top 44 players in the men’s rankings.

The qualifier is scheduled for the weekend and the main draw starts on Monday. The $6.57 million tournament alternates between Montreal and Toronto each year.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 5, 2022.