Rafael Nadal’s decision caused amazement on the circuit. It will not be in the resumption of tennis in an official way that will be held -as far as Grand Slams are concerned- at the US Open. In this way he will cut a streak of five consecutive years of presences as well as relegate a tournament of which he was the defending champion since he had beaten the Russian Daniil Medvedev in the final match in 2019. But let’s review the history a bit.
Rafael Nadal declared himself a professional in 2001 but had to wait two years to participate in his first US Open. In that 2003 edition he beat compatriot Fernando Vicente in the first round by 6-4, 6-3 and 6-3 but would fall before the Moroccan and pre-classified 22nd Younes El Aynaoui by 7-6 (6), 6-3 and 7-6 (6) . In 2004 he would also lose in the second round against whom was the defending champion, Andy Roddick, 6-0 6-3 6-4.
2005 would be a US Open with disappointments. It would only go through one more round: Manacor’s already second classified of the contest fell in the third round before James Blake, who had received a Wildcard, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 and 6-1. But Rafa, stoic, continued cementing his legacy and in 2006 he first reached the quarterfinals at Flushing Meadows. Luck was elusive against an experienced Mikhail Youzhny, who beat the second seed 6-3 5-7, 7-6 (5) and 6-1.
In 2007 Rafa would not go that far. On his way he was surprised by David Ferrer in the fourth round 6-7 (3), 6-4, 7-6 (4) and 6-2. The good ones would start in 2008, up to that moment his best finish in the tournament, semifinals. He lost in a great game against Andy Murray, who would also succumb but against Federer in the final, 6-2, 7-6 (5), 4-6 and 6-4. In 2009 he repeated the semifinals but this time his victimizer was Juan Martín Del Potro, who would become champion. That result was categorical: the Argentinean crushed him in straight sets 6-2, 6-2 and 6-2.
Finally, after eight years of trying, Rafa stayed with his first US Open in 2010. He won all the games he played in the contest in straight sets and only gave one in the final against Novak Djokovic, whom he would win 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 and 6-2. Nole himself took revenge at the US Open 2011 recovering and defeating him in the final 6-2, 6-4, 6-7 (3) and 6-1.
Rafa was absent from the US Open 2012 due to a knee injury that also prevented him from playing the London Olympics but in 2013 he had a comeback bathed in glory: He had an incredible tournament and took the trophy from Novak Djokovic thanks to his 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 and 6-1 against the Serbian.
“It is a hard time for me,” Rafa wrote on social media. by confirming his absence from the US Open 2014 due to an injury to his wrist. His return to New York in 2015 was complex, is that for the first time in a Grand Slam he lost a game being two sets up: he lost to Fabio Fognini in the third round by 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 and 6-4. 2016 was not generous with him either since Lucas Pouille would account for the Manacor 6-1, 2-6, 6-4, 3-6 and 7-6 (6).
In 2017 Rafa would raise the cup against South African Kevin Anderson, whom he passed over in straight sets 6-3, 6-3 and 6-4, leaving Juan Martín on the way in the semifinals. The reverse situation occurred in 2018, when Nadal was forced to retire before the Argentine when he lost 7-6 (3) and 6-2 in a tournament that Novak Djokovic would end up staying.
We come to 2019 and, the aforementioned, epic battle of four hours and fifty minutes before the new bad boy from russia, Medvedev, who saw his redemption with the New York public live and direct, but not with the peak of his level: 7-5, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6 and 6 -4 to keep his fourth Grand Slam, which he will not be able to defend in this particular 2020.