Sometimes, there are pieces of information that are released, which do not seem to have much importance, and yet, when you read between the lines, one realizes that there could be more to it. Having said that, Rafael Nadal has just released his summer plans for the US Tour leading up to the US Open. The announcements were made in stages. A real communications plan.
The first stage dates back to July 8th, when the man with 13 Roland-Garros titles under his belt, shared with his fans, that for the very first time in his career, he will compete in the Washington DC 500 event, which traditionally launches the US summer hard court tour leading up to the US Open. Interesting that after nearly 20 years on the tour, Nadal is changing his habits, by adding a tournament to his summer US tour. What does it mean? Will Nadal balance it out by cancelling a tournament towards the end of the tour? Possible. But for the moment, he does not seem to be headed that way.
No announcement was made with regards to a withdrawal from the Ohio event.
Last Wednesday, came the second stage of the plan. The Nadal clan informed the world of tennis that the man from Mallorca will be in Canada to play the 1000 event (in Toronto this year) : “I’m very happy to return to Canada to play in Toronto. Toronto is a fantastic tournament and I have had some really great matches there. As a matter of fact, I won there the last time we played and I would love to defend my title this August and be again with my fans in Canada and around the world.” Two for two.
What about Cincinnati ? For the moment, no announcement was made with regards to a withdrawal from the Ohio event. A tournament that Rafa has competed 12 times in but has only won once in 2013 beating Isner in the final. 12 is not bad in terms of number of participations, however Rafa has not set foot in Cinci since 2017. And yes, it his highly probable that, if Nadal makes it to the business end of the Canadian tournament, that he would pull out of the second 1000 event of the US summer tour. If he does not make it past the quarters, then there is a high chance to see Nadal on the Lindner Family Tennis Center courts the following week.
Final stage of the communications plan, the quote from Felix Auger-Aliassime’s coach, aka Toni Nadal, four days ago : « This victory at Wimbledon goes to show something else. The Balkan seems to be, at the moment, the one with the best momentum to proclaim himself the winner in the race to win the highest number of Grand Slams," Toni wrote. "In a month and a half the US Open will be played and there he will have his first chance to get ahead on the scoreboard. It is also true that Rafael will fight, and if I have never lost something, it is my unshakable faith in him," Uncle Toni continued.
Delay as much as possible the possibility of Djokovic going ahead of him and Federer with 21 majors.
Yes Novak Djokovic is in Pole position to become the sole Grand Slam record holder. Yes Novak Djokovic seems to be on the fast lane to become the first to complete a calendar Grand Slam since Rod Laver in 1969. Yes Novak Djokovic could repeat the amazing exploit of Stefi Graf in 1988 winning all four slams and the Olympic gold medal. The Serb has recently confirmed his participation at the Olympics.
However, everyone does not seem to see it that way and certainly not Rafael Nadal who will do everything he can to prevent, firstly, his archival to do what he will probably never be able to do : the calendar Grand Slam, and secondly delay as much as possible the possibility of Djokovic going ahead of him and Federer with 21 majors.
In fact, when one reads the congratulations post that Nadal published after Djokovic’s Wimbledon win you can understand that the race is on.
Of course you noted the subtle : « 20 Grand Slam titles is huge and it is amazing that we are 3 players tied on this. ».
Enough said. Game on.
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Felix Auger Aliassime