There was plenty of tennis played at the 2016 French Open on Friday. Among others Kei Nishikori advanced, Andy Murray advanced, Milos Raonic advanced, and Richard Gasquet advanced. However, the biggest news of the day came on the side of the draw where there was no action: Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from the French Open with a wrist injury. The Spaniard told the media on Friday that he was in pain in the last round and that the results of a recent MRI “are not positive.”
His withdrawal advances Marcel Granollers to the fourth round without having to fight for it. It’s not the first French Open 4th-round appearance for ‘Granola bars’ as he made the second week at the clay-court Slam in both 2012 and 2014. But there certainly appear to be other players beside him who stand to benefit from Nadal’s wrist injury.
Namely, Dominic Thiem now has a fantastic look at the semifinals of the 2016 French Open. With a draw through Alexander Zverev, who Thiem beat just last week, Granollers, and then no one more proven than a questionable Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the young Austrian has to be looking at this year’s French as his chance to put himself into a big match on tour. Thus far he has excelled at the smaller events but has not yet won a fourth-round match in a major, let alone a quarterfinal.
His ambitions have to be to do that now and Thiem, if he plays to his potential, should be the player that faces Novak Djokovic in the semifinal round. The Serbian himself now has his teeth more than half way into the final as most felt that the top half of the draw was between he and the Spaniard.
For Nadal, you can’t help but wonder if the injury advances a retirement date. After winning Monte-Carlo a handful of weeks ago and them following it up with a title in Barcelona, Nadal certainly looked more than physically able to win at the French Open too. Furthermore, the Spaniard did not have difficult opposition in the opening two rounds of Roland Garros with just Sam Groth and Facundo Bagnis opposing. Based on the scoring lines in those two wins, it did not appear as though Nadal was the least bit bothered: he won 36 games in the two matches with just 9 dropped.
That he has picked up a wrist injury after what has to be called unchallenging wins suggests strongly to me that his days as a Grand-Slam contender are nearing a conclusion. He hasn’t seen the semifinals of any major since winning the 2014 French Open, and many of his losses have come against non-contenders for the title. With Wimbledon about a month away, it sure is difficult to have much faith in the Spaniard at all. With Nadal and Roger Federer both on the sidelines at the biggest time of year, it is really starting to look like an era of change is coming within the Top 5 on the men’s tour.