In a message announced via the social networks of Facebook and Twitter, Rafal Nadal today announced his withdrawal from the Paris Masters …
“Hi all. I won’t be playing this upcoming week the tournament in Paris Bercy. It’s been a difficult decision to take but I understand that it is what I need to do right now to prepare well for the end of this season and also for 2012. I hope I can be back in 2012 to that great event in the most beautiful city in the world, and hopefully try to win it once day.”
Interesting that there is no mention of a withdrawal for physical issues, so before going on to discuss whether he has made the correct decision, there’s one question which is needed to be explored first and that is … can he?
Rafa is perhaps one of the most vocal of the top players when it comes to the length of the schedule and the mandatory nature of the number of tournaments to play. For Masters 1000 series that number totals eight, and whilst he has already participated in that number to date, the Monte Carlo Masters as an optional event counts only towards to the required number of 500 series. Rafa needed to compete in Paris to complete the statutory number. So if he’s not citing injury, how can he possibly withdraw without incurring a penalty?
The ATP rules state that a player’s Masters 1000 commitment can be reduced by one tournament if (1) they have played 600 matches following 1st January of that commitment year; (2) they have 12 years of service; or (3) they are 31 years of age following 1st January of that commitment year. Well (2) and (3) are out for Rafa, and whilst I’ve known that the 600 match mark was coming, I did believe that he would only pass that milestone next year. Not so. It seems that Rafa has benefited from a little quirk in the rulings in that from 2010 onwards, only the ATP World Tour, World Tour Finals, Grand Slams, Davis Cup and Olympics count towards this commitment, but any Challenger or Futures matches played before 2010 do still count. As Rafa played Challengers and Futures pre-2010, he exceeds his 600 tally for this commitment tour.
Au revoir Paris!
So whilst its sad for those fans who will miss out on seeing that great Champion there, is it the right decision for Rafa? All things considered, for me its a resounding “yes”. Indoor tennis on fast hardcourts has never suited Rafa’s game and he is least successful on them. After a gruelling season where unlike his counterparts, Rafa has had to face the re-juvenated Novak Djokovic six (unsuccessful) times, a bit of additional time off to rest not only his body, but his spirit is perhaps called for. In fact, it is very refreshing to to find that at this stage of the season, Rafa doesn’t have any injury woes because as he approaches his 26th year and 8th season in the top flight, keeping fit and healthy is tantamount.
With all that Rafa has achieved in tennis, I’m sure that he can rest easy perhaps never having his hands on the ever increasingly bizarre piece of sculpture that is the Paris Bercy trophy. Working hard for 2012 is perhaps the best thing to do, along with positioning himself as best as possible for the World Tour Finals and perhaps the main singular personal goal that is left for Rafa this season … lifting the Davis Cup.